The trial of David DePape, who is accused of breaking into the home of Nancy Pelosi, the former House Speaker, and attacking her husband Paul Pelosi with a hammer, began on Wednesday in San Francisco.
DePape, 43, faces federal charges of attempted kidnapping and assault of a federal official’s family member, as well as state charges of attempted murder, burglary, and threats. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The prosecution said that DePape was motivated by a range of right-wing conspiracy theories, such as QAnon, Pizzagate, and the 2020 election fraud. He told police that he wanted to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage and make her tell the “truth” about these theories.
“He believed that Nancy Pelosi was the leader of a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who were running a child sex trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C.,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Hemann said in his opening statement.
“He said he was going to take her back to his place in Idaho, where he had a secure location, and he was going to waterboard her until she told the truth,” FBI Special Agent Michael Eldridge testified, recounting DePape’s confession.
DePape also had a “target list” of other politicians, including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, according to the prosecution.
The attack took place on October 14, 2022, when DePape broke into the Pelosi residence in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. He encountered Paul Pelosi, 83, who was watching television in the living room, and hit him repeatedly with a hammer.
“I heard a loud noise. I thought it was an earthquake. I ran downstairs and I saw this man standing over my husband with a hammer. He was hitting him repeatedly. He looked at me and said, ‘Where is she? Where is Nancy?'” Alexandra Pelosi, the daughter of Paul and Nancy Pelosi, recalled in her testimony.
She said she ran upstairs and called 911, while DePape fled the scene. He was arrested shortly after by the police, who found him with a backpack containing a knife, duct tape, zip ties, and a map of the area.
Paul Pelosi suffered a fractured skull, arm and hand injuries, and spent six days in hospital. Nancy Pelosi was not at home at the time of the attack. She issued a statement after the attack, saying, “This was a horrific and terrifying attack on our family and on our democracy. We are grateful for the swift and professional response of law enforcement and medical personnel. We hope that justice will be served and that this will never happen again to anyone.”
The defense is arguing that DePape was suffering from a mental disorder and was not aware of the consequences of his actions. “He is not a monster. He is a human being who was suffering from a severe mental disorder that distorted his perception of reality and impaired his ability to control his impulses,” Public defender Elizabeth Falk said in her opening statement.
She said that DePape had a history of mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness, and that he was influenced by online propaganda and misinformation. She said that he did not intend to kill or harm anyone, but to expose what he believed was a “deep state” conspiracy.
The trial is expected to last until next week. If convicted, DePape faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
– David DePape: Trial begins for Paul Pelosi’s accused attacker, BBC News, 11/9/2023
– David DePape trial: Defense lays out right-wing conspiracy theories leading to Paul Pelosi attack, MSN, 11/10/2023
– David DePape is on trial, accused of attacking Paul Pelosi in his home. Here’s what to know., CBS News, 11/9/2023
– Pelosi hammer attacker driven by ‘bizarre’ conspiracy, court told as trial begins, Yahoo News, 11/10/2023