David DePape found guilty of federal charges in Paul Pelosi assault

David DePape, accused of bludgeoning U.S. Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul Pelosi with a hammer at the couple’s San Francisco mansion last year, was found guilty of the charges in a federal court Thursday.

DePape was convicted of two charges: attempting to kidnap a federal official and assaulting an immediate family member of a federal official with intent to retaliate against the official for performance of their duties. 

The attack on the then-82-year-old Paul Pelosi just days before last year’s midterm elections was captured on police bodycam video and sent shockwaves through the political world, the latest incident of violence attributed to demonizing political rhetoric. 

DePape told jurors he went to seek out Nancy Pelosi as part of a larger plan to end what he viewed as government corruption, a view reinforced by his endless consumption of right-wing media and outlandish conspiracy theories. 

DePape’s defense did not dispute that the 43-year-old DePape struck Paul Pelosi multiple times with a hammer, fracturing his skull and injuring his hands and arms, after breaking into the Pelosis’ home on Oct. 28, 2022.  His attorneys had argued that he was not seeking to go after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi because of her official duties as a member of Congress and so the charges did not fit. 

With the conviction, DePape faces up to 50 years in prison.

Nancy Pelosi’s spokesperson Aaron Bennett released the following statement following the verdicts:

“Speaker Pelosi and her family are deeply grateful for the outpouring of prayers and warm wishes for Mr. Pelosi from so many across the country during this difficult time.  The Pelosi family is very proud of their Pop, who demonstrated extraordinary composure and courage on the night of the attack a year ago and in the courtroom this week.  Thankfully, Mr. Pelosi continues to make progress in his recovery.

“Given the ongoing state court proceedings, Speaker Pelosi and the Pelosi family will not be offering further comment on this matter.”

A Canadian citizen who was living in a garage in the East Bay city of Richmond at the time of the attack, DePape said he spent endless hours consuming right-wing media outlets, YouTube videos, and podcasts. He tearfully testified that he became a follower of Donald Trump after coming to believe that mainstream news outlets repeatedly spread lies about the former president.

David DePape weeps while testifying at his federal trial in the attack on Paul Pelosi, Nov. 14, 2023.

Sketch by Vicki Behringer

“At that time I was biased against Trump. But there’s, like, truth there,” he said through sobs. “So if there’s truth out there that I don’t know, I want to know it.”  

According to DePape’s own testimony, the intrusion at the Pelosis’ home was to be the first in a list of targets that included progressive politicians and celebrities that he came to believe were part of a sinister cabal driving the country to ruin. Other names on his list included California Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Congressman Adam Schiff, actor Tom Hanks, President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, and Bay Area scholar and University of Michigan professor of women’s and queer studies Dr. Gayle Rubin, identified as Target 1 in court papers.

DePape testified that his plan was to get Nancy Pelosi and other targets to admit to their corruption. “If she lied, I would break her kneecaps,” he said. “The choice is on her.” He then wanted President Joe Biden to pardon the targets “so we can move forward as a country.”

Earlier this week, Paul Pelosi testified and recounted details of the attack publicly for the first time, saying he was awoken by a large man bursting into his bedroom asking, “Where’s Nancy?” When he told DePape she was in Washington, DC, DePape responded 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 testified.

Pelosi managed to call 911 even as DePape looked on, telling Pelosi to tell police that he was a friend. Pelosi said he recalled being thankful when the police arrived as he had apparently avoided the worst. But when an officer ordered DePape to drop the hammer both he and Pelosi were holding onto, he instead pushed Pelosi and “whacked me on the head.” Pelosi said he remembered waking up in a pool of blood.

More than a year after the attack, Pelosi said he had not fully recovered.

DePape testified he thought he had killed Paul Pelosi until he saw he had been charged by San Francisco prosecutors with attempted murder.

“He was never my target and I’m sorry that he got hurt,” DePape said.

DePape has pleaded not guilty to charges in state court of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary and other felonies. A state trial has not been scheduled.  

This story has been updated to correct the potential sentence DePape now faces.

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