David DePape (left) listens solemnly while Courtroom Deputy Ada Means (center) reads his guilty verdict in a San Francisco federal courtroom on Nov. 16, 2023, as U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley watches. (Vicki Behringer for KQED)
A jury found David DePape guilty Thursday morning of federal charges involving his attempt to kidnap former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his brutal assault on her husband with a hammer last year.
The jury’s unanimous verdict was returned after roughly eight hours of deliberations following a whirlwind four-day trial in San Francisco. DePape, 43, was specifically found guilty of attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assaulting a federal official’s family member.
“This verdict sends a clear message, regardless of what your beliefs are, what you cannot do is physically attack a member of Congress or their immediate family for the performance of their job,” U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey said during a brief press conference Thursday afternoon. Ramsey went on to thank the jury and wish Paul Pelosi a full recovery.
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“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,” a spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi said in a written statement released shortly after the jury read its verdict. “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.”
DePape’s defense was a mystery leading into the trial, in part because of overwhelming evidence against him, captured on video and audio recordings that had already reached the public. He also admitted his plans to kidnap Nancy Pelosi to a San Francisco police lieutenant shortly after his arrest. He later called a KTVU reporter from jail and apologized for failing in his plans and “not getting more” of his targets.
And perhaps most blatantly, video footage shows DePape savagely attacking Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, in the head with a hammer at least three times in front of two San Francisco police officers, shortly after the officers arrived at the Pelosi’s San Francisco home in the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 2022. The officers’ body cameras recorded the assault, after which they immediately tackled DePape and arrested him.
DePape’s defense strategy, led by Federal Public Defender Jodi Linker, quickly emerged as the trial unfolded.
Linker and her defense team argued that federal charges were inappropriate because those charges required DePape to have been motivated by Pelosi’s “official duties” in Congress. DePape said on the witness stand that he was instead motivated by extremist conspiracy theories that also led him to target Tom Hanks, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, and gender theory academic Gayle Rubin, among other well-known figures.
Paul Pelosi, who testified on Monday, described the “tremendous shock” of being awoken in his third-floor bedroom by a “very large man with a hammer in one hand and some [zip] ties in the other” who demanded, “Where’s Nancy?”
When Paul Pelosi told DePape that his wife was in Washington, D.C., and wouldn’t be home for several days, DePape said he would “tie me up and wait for her,” Pelosi testified.
Pelosi told the court about the cryptic 911 call he made while DePape watched. And he described how he convinced DePape to move to the first floor, hoping police would arrive there soon.
On the witness stand on Tuesday, DePape revealed never-before-heard details of his plan, including his intention to wear an inflatable unicorn costume while interrogating Nancy Pelosi on video about “Russiagate,” a conspiracy theory about purported pornographic tapes of President Donald Trump. DePape testified that if she had lied during his planned interrogation, he would have broken her kneecaps and wheeled her before Congress.
DePape intended to force his various targets to confess their crimes and then “unify” the country by forgiving them.
“That was the grand end of my plan, to get Joe Biden to pardon all the criminals for all their criminal conduct,” DePape said.
The sentencing phase of the case will come next, with an initial hearing set for Dec. 13.
DePape also still faces state charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary, false imprisonment and threatening the life or serious bodily harm to a public official, which collectively could carry a sentence of life in prison.
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