By Olga R. Rodriguez
A jury on Thursday convicted the man who broke into former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home seeking to hold her hostage and attacked her husband with a hammer of federal charges of attempted kidnapping and assault.
The jury deliberated for about eight hours before finding David DePape guilty of attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assault on the immediate family member of a federal official. DePape, who faces up to 50 years in prison, did not react as the verdict was read.
The attack on then-82-year-old Paul Pelosi that was captured on police body camera video just days before last year’s midterm elections sent shockwaves through the political world.
In this image taken from San Francisco Police Department body-camera video, Paul Pelosi, right, the husband of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fights for control of a hammer with his assailant during a brutal attack in the couple's San Francisco home on Oct. 28, 2022. The body-camera footage shows the suspect David DePape wrest the tool from the 82-year-old Pelosi and lunge toward him the hammer over his head. The blow to Pelosi occurs out of view and the officers — one of them cursing — rush into the house and jump on DePape. (San Francisco Police Department via AP)
DePape, 43, admitted during trial testimony that he broke into the Pelosis’ home on Oct. 28, 2022, intending to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage and “break her kneecaps” if she lied to him. He also admitted to bludgeoning Paul Pelosi with a hammer after San Francisco police officers showed up at the home, saying his plan to end what he viewed as government corruption was unraveling.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors did not immediately comment on the verdict. The U.S. Department of Justice planned to hold a news conference later in the day.
A sentencing date has not yet been set. A status hearing is scheduled for Dec. 13.
Defense attorneys argued that DePape was motivated by his political beliefs, not because he wanted to interfere with Nancy Pelosi’s official duties as a member of Congress, making the charges against him invalid. One of his attorneys, Angela Chuang, told jurors during closing arguments Wednesday that DePape was caught up in conspiracies.
During her rebuttal, prosecutor Helen Gilbert said the defense had made a false distinction between the California Democrat's politics and official duties and that DePape didn’t differentiate between the two.
DePape, a Canadian citizen who moved to the U.S. more than 20 years ago, also is charged in state court with assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary and other felonies. A state trial date will be set during a Nov. 29 hearing, said San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. She said her office will confer with federal prosecutors and the Pelosis to determine next steps.
During his testimony, DePape echoed right-wing conspiracy theories and told jurors he had planned to wear an inflatable unicorn costume and record his interrogation of Nancy Pelosi to upload it online. Prosecutors say he had rope and zip ties with him. Detectives also found body cameras, a computer and a tablet.
DePape testified that his plan was to get Nancy Pelosi to admit that she had been lying to the American people. “If she lied, I would break her kneecaps,” he said. “The choice is on her.”
He said he would then move to other targets, including a women’s and queer studies professor who testified at the trial, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, actor Tom Hanks and President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her husband, Paul Pelosi, arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors State Department Dinner, Dec. 7, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)
Paul Pelosi also testified, recalling how he was awakened by a large man bursting into the bedroom door and asking, “Where’s Nancy?” He said that when he responded that his wife was in Washington, DePape said he would tie him up while they waited for her.
“It was a tremendous sense of shock to recognize that somebody had broken into the house and looking at him and looking at the hammer and the ties, I recognized that I was in serious danger, so I tried to stay as calm as possible,” Pelosi told jurors.
Pelosi recounted how he managed to call 911 with DePape looking on, urging Pelosi to tell police that he was a friend. Pelosi said he tried to tell police what was happening without aggravating DePape.
Pelosi recalled being thankful when the police arrived, only for DePape to then hit him with the hammer. He said he woke up in a pool of his own blood.
More than a year after the attack, he still hasn’t fully recovered, Pelosi said. A neurosurgeon who operated on him testified that Pelosi had two wounds on his head, including a fracture to his skull that had to be mended with plates and screws he will have for the rest of his life. Pelosi also needed stitches on injuries to his right arm and hand, the surgeon said.
A spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi issued a statement after the verdict was announced saying Paul Pelosi “continues to make progress in his recovery” and that the family was grateful for the outpouring of support for him from people across the U.S..
DePape testified he thought Paul Pelosi was dead until he saw he was charged by San Francisco prosecutors with attempted murder.
“He was never my target and I’m sorry that he got hurt,” DePape said.
He told jurors he believed news outlets repeatedly lied about former President Donald Trump. In rants posted on a blog and online forum that were taken down after his arrest, DePape echoed the baseless, right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory that claims the U.S. government is run by a cabal of devil-worshipping pedophiles. He repeated QAnon-like conspiracies during his testimony, referring to a cabal and the ruling elite and saying they are eroding Americans’ liberty and allowing the abuse of children.