Man Who Attacked Nancy Pelosi’s Husband Is Convicted in California Trial

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David DePape was convicted on Friday of five charges, brought by the state of California, for breaking into Nancy Pelosi’s home in 2022 and beating her husband with a hammer.

The verdict in the state trial concluded a case that had raised fears of politically motivated violence in a divided America and reflected some of the darkest currents in the country’s politics. In the years leading up to the attack, Mr. DePape was submerged in online conspiracy theories like Pizzagate and QAnon and the virulent rhetoric that right-wing figures had for years embraced against their opponents, including Ms. Pelosi.

The convictions by a state jury in a San Francisco courtroom followed Mr. DePape’s convictions in federal court last year that resulted in a 30-year sentence. On Friday, he was found guilty of first-degree burglary; false imprisonment of an elder; threatening the family of a public official; kidnapping for ransom that resulted in bodily harm; and dissuading a witness by force or threat.

Mr. DePape, 44, now faces a life sentence without parole in state prison, to be completed after he serves his federal term.

Over the course of the two trials, he and his lawyers never contested the evidence against him. In interviews with police shortly after the incident in October 2022, he admitted to breaking into Ms. Pelosi’s house and attacking her husband, Paul Pelosi. He did the same in an interview from jail with a local television station and on the witness stand in his federal trial.

His lawyer in the state case, Adam Lipson of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, told the jury in his closing statement on Tuesday that the group should find Mr. DePape guilty of some of the charges. But Mr. Lipson tried to convince jurors that the prosecution had not proved other charges beyond a reasonable doubt. He disputed, in particular, that Mr. DePape was guilty of kidnapping Mr. Pelosi because he did not tie up his victim or attempt to extract a ransom.

Mr. Lipson focused on Mr. DePape’s state of mind at the time of the attack, arguing that his client had fallen so deep into isolation and conspiracy theories that he engaged in a nonsensical, ill-conceived plot to interrogate Ms. Pelosi. Mr. DePape then planned to find former Vice President Mike Pence; Tom Hanks, the actor; Gov. Gavin Newsom of California; and others to demand answers about a child rape conspiracy he believed was rampant in the United States.

“It was totally absurd,” Mr. Lipson said of his client’s quest. “He packed a bag with some computers, video games, goji berries, a few thousand dollars and a hammer and thought he was going to get the speaker of the House to confess to crimes.”

Phoebe Maffei, an assistant district attorney in San Francisco, painted a far darker picture during closing arguments, arguing that Mr. DePape had engaged in months of elaborate research before attempting to kill Mr. Pelosi in a “reign of terror.” She said Mr. DePape had bashed Mr. Pelosi’s skull with a hammer and had damaged Mr. Pelosi’s left hand so severely that it cannot fully be used.

“He has ongoing issues with balance, fainting spells, getting around,” Ms. Maffei said. “Mr. Pelosi very nearly died as a result of the injuries he suffered.”

The Pelosi family, in a statement provided on Friday by Ms. Pelosi’s office, said, “Speaker Pelosi and her family remain in awe of their Pop’s bravery, which shone through again on the witness stand in this trial just as it did when he saved his own life on the night of the attack. For nearly 20 grueling months, Mr. Pelosi has demonstrated extraordinary courage and fortitude every day of his recovery.”

In the federal trial, Mr. DePape’s public defenders offered a narrow defense, arguing that the charges didn’t apply because he had not targeted Ms. Pelosi based on her official duties as speaker of the House but because he believed she was part of a corrupt scheme led by liberal elites to destroy American liberty.

Mr. DePape was convicted in November of two federal charges: attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assault on an immediate family member of a federal official.

Mr. Lipson said on Friday that Mr. DePape was disappointed with the verdict in the state case and the prospect of spending his final years in a California prison after serving time in a federal penitentiary.

“This is a man who’s suffered a lot,” the defense lawyer said. “He was living a very isolated, lonely life when he just kind of got wrapped up in a lot of conspiracy theory type situations, and he has some mental illness too. He’s just dealing with that.”

Mr. DePape, who was 42 at the time of the crime, is a Canadian citizen who had been living illegally in the Bay Area for decades. For years, he was in a relationship with Gypsy Taub, a well-known San Francisco activist famous for protesting in the nude, and the couple had two children. But after their relationship fell apart, Mr. DePape became increasingly reclusive, living for a time under a tree in a Berkeley, Calif., park and wading ever deeper into the dark corners of the internet.

Harry M. Dorfman, the judge overseeing the state case, expelled Ms. Taub from the courtroom on Tuesday after the court’s sketch artist found a flier that Ms. Taub had left in a women’s bathroom stall that asserted Mr. DePape was innocent. Because jurors had been using the same restroom, Mr. Dorfman interviewed each one to see if any had seen the material before allowing the case to proceed.

After testimony began in the state trial, Mr. Dorfman threw out three of the most serious charges: attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse. He sided with the defense lawyers, who argued that those charges would amount to double jeopardy because of the federal case. The judge left intact five other charges, including false imprisonment, felony burglary and aggravated kidnapping.

In the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 2022, days before the midterm elections, Mr. DePape broke into the Pelosi residence in the upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, carrying a large hammer and zip ties. In police interviews and from the witness stand, he said he had been on a mission to kidnap Ms. Pelosi, then the speaker of the House and second in line to the presidency. Once he gained entry to the home, he called out repeatedly, “Where’s Nancy?”

Ms. Pelosi was in Washington, but her husband, Paul, who was 82 at the time, was asleep in the couple’s upstairs bedroom. Awakened by the intruder and terrified that his life was in jeopardy, Mr. Pelosi was able to surreptitiously call 911 from his bathroom without alarming Mr. DePape.

Police officers arrived to find Mr. DePape and Mr. Pelosi standing in the foyer, each with a hand on the hammer. What happened next was captured on footage from the officers’ body-worn cameras: Mr. DePape managed to wrest control of the hammer and then slammed it into Mr. Pelosi’s head, leaving him lying on the ground as blood pooled around him.

Mr. Pelosi, who suffered two skull fractures and spent six days in the hospital, recounted the traumatic events on the witness stand during each of the trials. Saying the attack had been “so traumatic for my family,” he described how he was still in pain and undergoing physical therapy. “I have just tried to put it out of my mind,” he told jurors in the federal case.

At his sentencing hearing in the federal case, Mr. DePape apologized for his crimes and said that he had been suffering a mental decline. “I should have left the house when I learned Nancy Pelosi wasn’t there,” he told the judge. “I will never do anything violent like that ever again.”

James Dobbins contributed reporting from San Francisco.



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