upper waypoint

Federal Judge Orders New Sentencing Hearing for David DePape in Trial Over Pelosi Attack

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

A watercolor sketch shows a white man with a ponytail holding his hands together as he looks down sullenly in a courtroom. A female judge and court reporter sit in the background.
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)

The federal judge presiding over the trial of the man convicted of attempting to kidnap former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fracturing her husband’s skull with a hammer ordered a redo of David DePape’s sentencing on Saturday, acknowledging that the court failed to ask him on Friday if he would like to make a statement before handing down a 30-year prison term.

Prosecutors raised concerns a few hours after U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley sentenced DePape on Friday morning, according to court filings. Then, the defense filed a notice of appeal in the case.

In her order scheduling a reopened sentencing hearing for May 28, Corley noted that neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys alerted the court that DePape hadn’t been given a chance to make a statement.

“Nonetheless, it was the Court’s responsibility to personally ask Mr. DePape if he wanted to speak,” Corley wrote. “As the Court did not do so, it committed clear error.”

Prosecutors sought a longer, 40-year prison sentence and the application of a terrorism enhancement, an argument which Corley rejected Friday. She said, however, that DePape remained a threat.

Defense attorneys argued Friday that untreated mental illness left DePape vulnerable to believing conspiracy theories that drove him to plot to kidnap House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and others he said were part of a cabal of powerful public figures, as he testified during his trial.

A federal jury convicted DePape in November of attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assaulting her family member.

Stanford law professor Robert Weisberg said Corley’s order on Saturday puts the judge in a “slightly tricky position” to maintain an open mind about changing DePape’s sentence based on anything he says. And the judge will need to make a record that she considered the defendant’s statement, even if she doesn’t alter the sentence.

“I mean, she’ll have to do that with some elegance,” Weisberg said.

“There are so many strange things about this case and the behavior of the defendant, it’s hard to say,” Weisberg said. “He may just take the opportunity to give another speech.”

Effects of the continued federal sentencing may ripple into a separate trial scheduled to open as early as May 24, where DePape faces state-level charges in San Francisco Superior Court, including attempted murder.


lower waypoint
next waypoint