David DePape, the rightwing conspiracy theorist who attacked Nancy Pelosi’s husband in their San Francisco home, has been convicted of attempted kidnapping and assault.
A jury in San Francisco deliberated for about eight hours before finding 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 on Thursday.
The federal jury’s decision comes after a dramatic trial in which Paul Pelosi testified about the “traumatic” hammer attack he suffered on 28 October 2022, days before the midterm elections. DePape also took the stand in his defense, saying he had planned to interrogate the former House speaker and post footage of her online.
The charge of assault of an immediate family member of a US official, with the intent to retaliate against the official for performing their duties, carries a maximum 30-year sentence, and the charge of attempted kidnapping of a US official carries a maximum 20-year sentence. DePape is facing separate charges in state court, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, residential burglary and elderly abuse. He faces a potential life sentence in the state case and has pleaded not guilty, but that trial has not been set.
Prosecutors said that at the start of the attack at around 2am, DePape smashed through a door in the back of the Pelosis’ house and encountered Paul Pelosi, then 82. He had been sleeping. DePape allegedly said, “Where’s Nancy? Where’s Nancy?” as he stood over Paul Pelosi with zip ties and a hammer in his hands. Nancy Pelosi was in Washington during the break-in.
Paul Pelosi managed to call police, and when two officers arrived, the officers saw DePape hit the speaker’s husband in the head, which knocked him unconscious. Paul Pelosi was hospitalized with a skull fracture and injuries to his hands and arm. Part of the incident was captured on body-camera footage of police, and an FBI agent testified that the video indicated DePape hit him at least three times.
“It was a tremendous 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,” Paul Pelosi recounted to jurors.
DePape has a documented history of promoting conspiracy theories and far-right messages. On Facebook, he shared videos that falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and misinformation about the January 6 insurrection.
In court, DePape cried when he talked about his political beliefs, explaining how he came to support baseless narratives that a cabal of pedophiles were behind the US government. He also said he had wanted to talk to Nancy Pelosi about the 2016 election, and that he intended to question her while wearing an inflatable unicorn costume. “He was never my target and I’m sorry that he got hurt,” DePape said of Paul Pelosi.
DePape and his attorneys did not deny he committed the attack. His lawyer, Jodi Linker, argued that he was not targeting Nancy Pelosi as retaliation for her official duties, but rather due to the conspiracy theories he believed “with every ounce of his body”. In opening remarks, she said he was trying to stop the abuse of children and corruption: “This is not a whodunit. But what the government fails to acknowledge is the ‘whydunit’ – and the ‘why’ matters in this case.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting
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