Crime, Law and Justice

Man gets 30 years in prison for attacking ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer

Pelosi Husband Attacked
In this image taken from San Francisco Police Department body-camera video, the husband of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Paul Pelosi, right, fights for control of a hammer with his assailant David DePape during a brutal attack in the couple's San Francisco home, on Oct. 28, 2022. DePape convicted of attempting to kidnap then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and attacking her husband with a hammer is set to be sentenced in federal court Friday, May 17, 2024.
San Francisco Police Department via AP, File

The man who broke into the home of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seeking to hold her hostage and bludgeoned her husband with a hammer was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison.

The attack on Paul Pelosi, who was 82 at the time, was captured on police body camera video just days before the 2022 midterm elections and sent shockwaves through the political world. He suffered two head wounds including a skull fracture that was mended with plates and screws he will have for the rest of his life. His right arm and hand were also injured.

A jury found David DePape, 44, guilty last November of attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assault on the immediate family member of a federal official. Prosecutors had asked for a 40-year prison term.

Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley sentenced DePape to 20 years for attempted kidnapping and 30 years for the assault — the maximum for both counts. The sentences will run concurrently. He was also given credit for the 18 months that he's been in custody.

DePape stood silently as he was sentenced and looked down at times. His public defense attorneys had asked the judge to sentence him to 14 years, pointing out that he was going through a difficult period in his life at the time of the attack, had undiagnosed mental health issues and had no prior criminal history.

Pelosi Husband Attacked
David DePape is seen, Dec. 13, 2013, in Berkeley, Calif. DePape convicted of attempting to kidnap then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and attacking her husband with a hammer is set to be sentenced in federal court Friday, May 17, 2024.
Michael Short | San Francisco Chronicle via AP, File

At trial, DePape testified that he had planned to wear an inflatable unicorn costume and record his interrogation of the Democratic speaker, who was not at her San Francisco home at the time of the attack, to upload it online.

Ahead of the sentencing, one of his defense attorneys, Angela Chuang, told the judge to consider the prison terms being given to those who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

"The five most serious sentences for people who were convicted of seditious conspiracy, of literally conspiring to overthrow the government, range from 15 to 22 years," Chuang said.

Corley said the Jan. 6 analogy didn’t adequately reflect the seriousness of breaking into an official's private home. The attack may have a chilling effect on people seeking office in the future, she said.

“They have to think not only, ‘Am I willing to take that risk myself, but am I willing to risk my spouse, my children, my grandchildren?’” the judge said.

Prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence on each count and for DePape to serve 10 years concurrently, giving him a 40-year prison term.

Before sentencing, Christine Pelosi read her father and mother's victim statements, explaining how the violent attack changed their lives. In Paul Pelosi's statement, he explained that 18 months after the attack, he still gets headaches and vertigo and has fainted and fallen twice at home.

“Once you are attacked in such a public and political manner, with such threatening language, you always have to fear a copycat,” Nancy Pelosi said in her statement. “When I encourage people, especially women to consider running for office, physical threats to the family should not even be a factor, but they are.”

Both Paul and Nancy Pelosi said there are still bloodstains on the floor and other signs of the break-in at their home.

“Our home remains a heartbreaking crime scene,” Nancy Pelosi wrote.

DePape admitted during trial testimony that he broke into the Pelosis’ home Oct. 28, 2022, intending to hold the speaker hostage and “break her kneecaps” if she lied to him. He also admitted to bludgeoning Paul Pelosi with a hammer after police showed up, saying his plan to end what he viewed as government corruption was unraveling.

Defense attorneys argued DePape was motivated by his political beliefs, not because he wanted to interfere with Nancy Pelosi’s official duties as a member of Congress, making the charges against him invalid.

Chuang, one of his attorneys, said during closing arguments that DePape was estranged from his family and was caught up in conspiracy theories.

Sky Gonzalez, David DePape’s son, told reporters outside court the 30-year prison term was equivalent to getting a death sentence.

“I think that’s quite sad. I think that’s a really long time, because if you think about it, he’s already nearly 50. Basically, it’s just a death sentence," Gonzalez said before repeating the same conspiracy theories his father wrote about before the attack.

At trial DePape, a Canadian who moved to the U.S. more than 20 years ago, testified that he believed news outlets repeatedly lied about former President Donald Trump. In rants posted on a blog and online forum that were taken down after his arrest, DePape echoed the baseless, right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory that claims a cabal of devil-worshipping pedophiles runs the U.S. government.

Prosecutors said he had rope and zip ties with him, and detectives found body cameras, a computer and a tablet.

Paul Pelosi recalled at the trial how he was awakened by a large man bursting into the bedroom and asking, “Where’s Nancy?” He said that when he responded that his wife was in Washington, DePape said he would tie him up while they waited for her.

“It was a tremendous sense of shock to recognize that somebody had broken into the house, and looking at him and looking at the hammer and the ties, I recognized that I was in serious danger, so I tried to stay as calm as possible,” Pelosi told jurors.

DePape is also charged in state court with assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary and other felonies. Jury selection in that trial is expected to start Wednesday.

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