There are more than 50,000 lawyers practicing in Pennsylvania, but back in 2014, Daniel Muessig sat at his desk, looked into a camera and made a pitch to potential clients about what set him apart.
The shtick continued: “Trust me, I may have a law degree, but I think like a criminal.”
Seven years later, Muessig no longer just thinks like a criminal. He now is one.
On Tuesday, Muessig pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring with others to distribute hundreds of pounds of marijuana in April and May 2019. He was indicted in July, more than two years after the crimes took place. Muessig’s lawyer, Charles Porter Jr., did not respond to a Wednesday night request for comment from The Washington Post.
Muessig, 39, does not appear to have been the FBI’s original target but got wrapped up in the bureau’s expanding 2019 drug trafficking investigation in the Pittsburgh area. In April of that year, the FBI started wiretapping one of the phones used by Chadlin Leavy, a heroin and cocaine supplier for a Pittsburgh street gang, federal prosecutors wrote in a news release.
Through the intercepted communications, agents learned Leavy was also dealing marijuana and that his supplier, Jared Eck, replenished Leavy’s inventory on Fridays, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. To resupply Leavy, Eck got marijuana from a man named Wayne Barker, who ran a stash house with Muessig.
Agents would eventually learn about and stake out a resupply between Eck and Leavy on May 24, 2019, federal prosecutor Kate Jordan said, according to the Post-Gazette. During the surveillance, agents watched Muessig enter an apartment with a backpack. A few minutes later, Barker drove up in a Jeep, went into the apartment with a shopping bag, came back out to the Jeep to retrieve a vacuum sealer and returned to the building.
Then, a Dodge Ram pickup arrived, Jordan said. Several men unloaded boxes from the truck and took them inside. Muessig and another man then carried two boxes out of the apartment building and stowed them in the Dodge Ram. When the pickup driver left, officers followed and pulled him over, opened the boxes and found $400,000.
Inside the apartment, agents found a vacuum sealer, a money counter and several boxes filed with marijuana that weighed a total of 404 pounds, Jordan said, according to the Post-Gazette. In total, she added, Muessig was responsible for trafficking between 220 pounds and 882 pounds of marijuana.
Leavy was sentenced to five years in prison. Barker and Eck have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing, the Post-Gazette reported.
Muessig is on administrative suspension from practicing law, according to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s disciplinary board website. He was first admitted to the state bar in 2013.
The next year, he put out the over-the-top ad offering his services that, in his own words, went “minorly viral.” The video opens with a bunch of his friends acting out crimes, ranging from prostitution to burglary to drug trafficking. In one vignette, two guys cocked their gun, pulled masks over their faces and took off to rob someone. But before they did, they smiled and gave two thumbs up for the camera.
That’s because Muessig, by his own admission, was the lawyer “Pittsburgh criminals hire when they commit crimes.”
In the 2014 interview with Slate, Muessig told the online magazine how the ad was one more way he was connecting with clients, showing them he understood what they were going through and how they saw the world. Muessig grew up in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and, before going to law school, traveled the world as a freestyle rapper under the stage name Dos Noun. But, he told Slate, he grew weary touring the same cities in the same countries.
“I was just kind of running in place in my life,” he said.
So he went to the University of Pittsburgh’s law school. Muessig told Slate he was a horrible student. He didn’t respect his teachers, bucked authority every chance he could and graduated near the bottom of his class.
But he did graduate and passed the bar. A year later, he was combining his new legal education with what he called “street knowledge” to speak to Pittsburgh criminals who’d gotten jammed up. One of his messages in his 2014 ad was interesting for a lawyer, especially one fresh out of law school: “Laws are arbitrary.”
“America was built on freedom, not on a bunch of people with more money than you telling you what you can and can’t do with all their stupid ‘laws,’” Muessig said in the video, using his fingers to make air quotes.
At the mention of “freedom,” Muessig was interrupted briefly by an eagle screeching and flying in front of an American flag.
The start of the ad is perhaps most relevant, given that the next step in Muessig’s case is sentencing, which is scheduled for March. According to the Post-Gazette, he faces a mandatory five years in prison.
Muessig started the ad by swiveling his chair around to face the camera. He leaned on the desk in front of him as the graphic of a neon sign let everyone know he was a “real defense attorney.”
Muessig’s first words: “Consequences — they sure suck, don’t they?”