SAN FRANCISCO - The man who broke into the home of Nancy Pelosi last year and bludgeoned her husband was convicted Thursday on federal charges of trying to kidnap the then-House speaker and assaulting one of her family members because of her work in Congress.
David DePape, a 43-year-old carpenter who immersed himself in conspiracy theories spread online by right-wing extremists, admitted that he hit Paul Pelosi on the head “full force” with a hammer during his bungled attempt to take Nancy Pelosi hostage at their San Francisco home in October 2022.
They key question in the federal case was whether DePape did those things because of Nancy Pelosi’s performance of her job representing San Francisco in Congress. After about nine hours of deliberations over two days, the jury found that he did.
The unanimous verdict of the 12 jurors came at the end of a four-day trial in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
“Speaker Pelosi and her family are deeply grateful for the outpouring of prayers and warm wishes for Mr. Pelosi from so many across the country during this difficult time,” Aaron Bennett, a spokesman for Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement issued on behalf of the family. “The Pelosi family is very proud of their Pop, who demonstrated extraordinary composure and courage on the night of the attack a year ago and in the courtroom this week.”
In her closing argument Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen L. Gilbert said there was no doubt that DePape targeted Pelosi in the attack because of official duties she was then performing as leader of the House’s Democratic majority.
Gilbert reminded jurors that DePape told police he was planning to break Pelosi’s kneecaps if she lied to him and that she would then be rolled into Congress in a wheelchair as an example to other politicians he deemed “evil.”
“We didn’t put those words in this mouth. He said that on the day that he did this,” Gilbert told the jury.
The prosecutors also urged jurors to consider the severity of Paul Pelosi’s injuries, pointing to enduring headaches and other health challenges caused by skull fractures that left him hospitalized for six days.
“This is what full force looks like,” Gilbert said, posting a photo on courtroom monitors of Paul Pelosi lying unconscious in a pool of blood next to his front door.
Angela Chuang, one of the federal public defenders representing DePape, conceded that she was asking jurors who might be outraged by the assault to “do something very hard” - acquit DePape “even if every fiber of your being doesn’t want to do it.”
“He committed serious crimes that night, there’s no doubt about it,” she said, adding: “But he didn’t commit these two crimes.”
The first charge was attempting to kidnap a federal official on account of the performance of official duties. The second was assaulting one of the official’s immediate family members with intent to impede, intimidate or interfere with the official while she engaged in the performance of her job or with intent to retaliate against her because of her job performance.
“What Mr. DePape did just does not fit the charges here,” Chuang told the jury. Prosecutors “want you to be so offended” by the violence that it would “blind you to the law that applies to this case.”
It was not Nancy Pelosi’s actions as a government official that motivated DePape, Chuang argued. Rather, it was her leadership of the Democratic Party, which DePape believed was part of a corrupt ruling-class cabal that promoted child molestation, she said. That accusation is similar to false extremist theories espoused by QAnon, which the FBI has characterized as a domestic terrorism threat.
In the prosecution’s rebuttal, Gilbert suggested that jurors take a look at the schedule that Nancy Pelosi abandoned on the morning of the attack so she could fly home from Washington to be with her injured husband. It included a classified briefing and a meeting in the U.S. Capitol with a person from Ukraine.
Part of Pelosi’s job as House speaker, Gilbert said, was to be the leader of Democrats in the House. There was no evidence, she said, that DePape made any distinction between her government duties and her political role.
Gilbert also suggested that the defense case that Pelosi was just one of many public figures targeted by DePape - among them California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the Hollywood actor Tom Hanks and the financier George Soros - was irrelevant to the assault and attempted kidnapping.
“Whose house did he break into?” she said. “Whose husband did he threaten? And whose husband did he attack?”
The trial’s star witnesses were DePape, who outlined his beliefs in debunked conspiracy theories, and Paul Pelosi, 83, whose testimony laid bare the trauma he endured after his assailant rousted him out of bed, demanded to speak with his wife and knocked him out with the hammer.
DePape faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for the assault conviction and 20 years for the attempted kidnapping.
DePape will face another trial on state charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary, false imprisonment and threatening serious bodily harm to a public official. He has pleaded not guilty.