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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Paul Pelosi’s attacker sentenced to 30 years in prison

Paul Pelosi, husband of U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) waits for the start of U.S. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in the House Chambers of the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington, D.C.  (Chip Somodevilla)
By Azi Paybarah Washington Post

David DePape, the man whose embrace of right-wing conspiracy theories led him to break into Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and bludgeon her 82-year-old husband, was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison. Federal prosecutors had asked for a 40-year term, arguing that the attack constituted an act of terrorism.

In a statement Friday before the sentencing, Aaron Bennett, spokesman for the congresswoman, said the family “couldn’t be prouder of their Pop and his tremendous courage in saving his own life on the night of the attack and in testifying in this case.”

Nancy Pelosi and her family “will not be offering further comment on this matter at this time,” Bennett said.

In a letter sent to the federal judge before Friday’s sentencing, Nancy and Paul Pelosi asked the court for a “very long” sentence for DePape, CBS News reported. Paul Pelosi also detailed the lingering effects of the attack in the letter.

A jury convicted DePape in November on federal charges of trying to kidnap the then-House speaker and assaulting Paul Pelosi because of his wife’s work in Congress. The unanimous verdict came at the end of a four-day trial in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

On Oct. 28, 2022, police in San Francisco responded to a break-in at the Pelosi home and found DePape, who grabbed a hammer from Paul Pelosi and attacked him in front of police. The attack was captured on police body-camera video

Paul Pelosi suffered two wounds to his head, including a skull fracture. Nancy Pelosi was not home at the time of the attack.

The attack at the home of one of the country’s highest-elected officials came days before the midterm elections, and renewed worries about the threat of political violence in a deeply polarized country.

“For months, sleeping alone in my home was very difficult because I kept remembering the defendant breaking into my house,” Paul Pelosi said in the statement to the court. “The defendant severely damaged the nerves in my left hand. My forehand was ‘de-gloved’ exposing raw nerves and blood vessels. Surgeries and treatments mostly healed the skin, but underneath I still feel pinched nerves in my left hand. This makes basic tasks like using buttons, cutlery and simple tools more difficult.”

DePape, who was 43 at the time of the trial, admitted that he broke into the home intending to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage and “break her kneecaps.” He also said he bludgeoned Paul Pelosi with a hammer after police arrived because his plan to end what he viewed as government corruption was unraveling. During the trial, other potential targets of DePape’s were disclosed, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

Angela Chuang, one of DePape’s attorneys, told the jury her client was motivated by a mix of his political beliefs and was caught up in conspiracy theories. But, Chuang said, her client was not motivated to attack Pelosi because of her position in Congress, but rather because of her leadership within the Democratic Party.

She argued that this made him innocent of the specific charges against him, of attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assault on the immediate family member of a federal official. Chuang said DePape believed the party was part of a corrupt-ruling class cabal that promoted assault on children.

DePape was given 20 years for one count and 30 years for another count. The sentences will run concurrently. Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley also gave DePape credit for the 18 months that he’s been in custody.

In a sentencing memo earlier this month, prosecutors said that the court bears a responsibility to use DePape’s sentence to deter others from committing political violence. The attack at the Pelosi home comes after a dramatic increase in threats against lawmakers and government officials in recent years.

“At a time when extremism has led to attacks on public and elected officials, this case presents a moment to speak to others harboring ideologically motivated violent dreams and plans,” the prosecutors wrote.

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 in that case.

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Robert Klemko contributed to this report.