SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A lawyer for the man who broke into former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and attacked her husband told a federal jury Wednesday that David DePape was motivated by his political beliefs, not because he wanted to interfere with her official duties as a member of Congress, making the charges against him invalid.
David DePape, 43, is charged with attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assault on the immediate family member of a federal official in the Oct. 28, 2022, attack against Paul Pelosi.
During her rebuttal, prosecutor Helen Gilbert said the defense had made a false distinction between Nancy Pelosi’s politics and official duties and that DePape didn’t differentiate between the two.
DePape pleaded not guilty, but during testimony on Tuesday admitted to bludgeoning Paul Pelosi with a hammer while trying to carry out a plan to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage.
Federal public defender Angela Chuang told the jury during her closing statement that DePape did a “horrible thing” but that he did not commit the federal charges with which he is charged.
“He seriously hurt and traumatized Mr. Pelosi that day, that’s inexcusable,” Chuang told the jury. “He committed serious crimes that night, there is no doubt about it. But he didn’t commit these two crimes.”
Chuang told the jurors DePape believed in right-wing conspiracy theories he learned about while listening to conservative commentators on YouTube. She said those beliefs led him to Nancy Pelosi, whom he considered the face of the Democratic Party. The federal charges don’t fit, Chuang said, because DePape targeted Nancy Pelosi for her political activities and not because he wanted to interfere with her official duties in Congress.
DePape admitted during trial testimony he planned to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage, interrogate her and “break her kneecaps” if she did not admit to the lies he said she told about “Russiagate,” a reference to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
DePape also testified under cross-examination that he told a San Francisco police detective that he had hoped to see an injured Pelosi wheeled onto the floor of the House so everyone would know there were consequences for being “the most evil people on the planet.”
“He did not say he was going to wheel her out to the DNC (Democratic National Committee), to the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee). He said Congress. We didn’t put those words in his mouth. He said that on the day he did this,” Gilbert said.
DePape’s attack did in fact interfere with Nancy Pelosi’s official duties because after learning of the assault on her husband, she canceled a classified briefing and a meeting with someone from Ukraine to fly home, Gilbert said.
After closing arguments, jurors began deliberations Wednesday in the four-day trial. If convicted of both charges, DePape faces a maximum of 50 years in prison.
The attack on Paul Pelosi, which was recorded on police body cameras, happened just days before last year’s midterm elections and sent shockwaves through the political world.
DePape, 43, told jurors that he bludgeoned then-82-year-old Paul Pelosi after San Francisco police showed up at the home because he realized that his plan to end what he viewed as government corruption was unraveling.
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 trial date for those charges will be set during a Nov. 29 hearing, said Randy Quezada, a spokesperson for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.
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.
He said he had additional targets, including a women’s and queer studies professor who testified at the trial, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, actor Tom Hanks and President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
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 and urging Pelosi to tell police that DePape was a friend. Pelosi said he tried to tell police what was happening without aggravating DePape. Pelosi testified that DePape told him he considered his wife “the leader of the pack” and “he had to take her out.”
Pelosi recalled being thankful when the police arrived, only for DePape to 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 head wounds, including a skull fracture 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.