Man who attacked Nancy Pelosi’s husband found guilty in California trial

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

The state trial verdict concludes a case that raised fears of politically motivated violence in a divided America and reflected some of the darkest undercurrents in the country’s politics. In the years before the attack, Mr. DePape was overwhelmed by online theories like Pizzagate and QAnon and by the virulent rhetoric that right-wing figures had been espousing for years against their opponents, including Ms. Pelosi.

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

Mr. DePape, 44, now faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in state prison after serving his federal sentence.

During the two trials, neither he nor his lawyers ever disputed the evidence against him. In interviews with police shortly after the October 2022 incident, he admitted to breaking into Ms. Pelosi’s home and attacking her husband, Paul Pelosi. He did the same in an interview from prison with a local television station and on the witness stand at his federal trial.

His lawyer in the state’s case, Adam Lipson of the San Francisco public defender’s office, told the jury in his closing statement 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 proven the other charges beyond a reasonable doubt. He notably contested that Mr. DePape was guilty of the kidnapping of Mr. Pelosi because he did not tie up his victim or try to obtain 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 deeply into isolation and conspiracy theories that he had engaged in an absurd and ill-conceived plot to question Ms. Pelosi. Mr. DePape then planned to meet up with former Vice President Mike Pence; Tom Hanks, the actor; Governor. Gavin Newsom of California; and others to demand answers about a child rape plot he said was plaguing the United States.

“It was totally absurd,” Mr. Lipson said of his client’s quest. “He packed a bag containing 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 much bleaker picture during closing arguments, arguing that Mr. DePape had engaged in months of extensive research before attempting to kill Mr. Pelosi in a “reign of terror “. She said Mr. DePape slammed Mr. Pelosi with a hammer and damaged Mr. Pelosi’s skull. Pelosi’s left hand is so badly damaged that it cannot be fully used.

“He has constant balance problems, fainting spells and trouble moving around,” Maffei said. “Mr. Pelosi almost died from the injuries he suffered.

The Pelosi family, in a statement provided Friday by Ms. Pelosi’s office, said: “Speaker Pelosi and her family remain impressed by the courage of their pop, who once again shone on the witness stand during this trial, all like when he saved his own life the night of the attack. For nearly 20 grueling months, Mr. Pelosi demonstrated extraordinary fortitude and fortitude every day of his recovery.

At the federal trial, Mr. DePape’s public defenders presented a narrow defense, arguing that the charges did not apply because he did not target Ms. Pelosi based on her official duties as speaker of the House , but because he believed she was part of a corrupt plan by liberal elites to destroy American freedom.

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

Mr. Lipson said Friday that Mr. DePape was disappointed with the verdict in the state’s 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 has suffered a lot,” the defense lawyer said. “He was living a very isolated and lonely life when he found himself thrust into a lot of conspiracy theory type situations, and he also suffered from mental illness. He just takes care of that.

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

Harry M. Dorfman, the judge overseeing the state’s case, removed Ms. Taub from the courtroom Tuesday after the court sketcher found a flyer saying Ms. Taub had gone into a women’s restroom , which affirmed that Mr. DePape was innocent. Because the juniors used the same restroom, Mr. Dorfman interviewed each of them to see if any had seen the equipment before allowing the matter to continue.

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

In the early morning hours of October. On December 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 on the witness stand, he said he was on a mission to kidnap Ms. Pelosi, then speaker of the House and second in line for president. Once he entered the house, he repeatedly shouted, “Where is Nancy?”

MS. Pelosi was in Washington, but her husband, Paul, who was 82 at the time, was sleeping in the couple’s bedroom upstairs. Awakened by the intruder and terrified that his life was in danger, 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 lobby, each with a hand on the gavel. What happened next was captured on the officers’ body-worn cameras: Mr. DePape managed to gain control of the gavel and then slammed it on 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 hospital, recounted the traumatic events on the witness stand during each of the trials. Saying the attack was “so traumatic for my family,” he described how he was still in pain and undergoing physical therapy. “I 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 he was suffering from mental decline. “I should have left the house when I found out Nancy Pelosi wasn’t there,” he told the judge. “I will never do something violent like that again.”

James Dobbins contributed reporting from San Francisco.

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