What to Know About the Prosecution of David DePape

What to Know About the Prosecution of David DePape

David DePape broke into Nancy Pelosi’s house in San Francisco in the early hours of Oct. 28, 2022, and bludgeoned her husband, Paul Pelosi, with a hammer, fracturing his skull. The brutal attack had national reverberations, sowing fear about political violence less than two weeks before the midterm elections.

In police interviews after the attack, DePape acknowledged what he had done, and he was charged with a number of state and federal felonies. His federal trial concluded last month with convictions and a 30-year prison sentence. His state trial began last week.

At DePape’s federal sentencing hearing, Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley said that it was important to send a message that politically motivated violence was “absolutely unacceptable to our democracy,” and added that she wanted to make sure “there are no copycats.”

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the state case. Yesterday, a judge dismissed some of the most serious charges, but DePape still faces a maximum state sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Today, I’ll walk you through the basics of what we know about the attack and where things stand now in the criminal proceedings against DePape.

DePape, then 42, busted through a back door of the Pelosis’ residence in the affluent neighborhood of Pacific Heights in San Francisco, looking for Nancy Pelosi, who was then the speaker of the House. He repeatedly called out, “Where’s Nancy?” But she was in Washington at the time, and DePape instead encountered Paul Pelosi, asleep in the couple’s bedroom.

Pelosi woke up and surreptitiously called 911 from his bathroom. Just as the police arrived, DePape struck him repeatedly in the head with a large hammer, knocking him to the floor in a pool of blood. Pelosi, who was then 82, suffered two skull fractures and spent six days in the hospital, where he underwent surgery.

DePape believed a variety of baseless right-wing conspiracy theories, including that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. He said he had wanted to interrogate Nancy Pelosi, whom he saw as the leader of a corrupt Democratic Party.

He had other targets, too: Gov. Gavin Newsom, Democrat of California; the actor Tom Hanks; Hunter Biden, the president’s son; and George Soros, a hedge fund billionaire.

DePape grew up in Canada and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in his 20s. He worked odd jobs and lived for a time under a tree in a park in Berkeley. He was later radicalized online and began immersing himself in conspiracy theories like Pizzagate and QAnon. (Read more about how DePape plunged into online hatred.)

During DePape’s federal trial, he admitted that he had carried out the attack. But he said he had wanted to only kidnap Nancy Pelosi, and had not intended to hurt her husband.

“I should have left the house when I learned Nancy Pelosi wasn’t there,” DePape told the court during the sentencing hearing. “I will never do anything violent like that ever again.”

He said that he was in a dark place when he committed the crimes, but that his mental state had since improved. “I have been able to reconnect with my mom and other family members, which has allowed me to move forward,” he told the court.

A judge in San Francisco has dismissed some of the most serious state charges against DePape, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse. Defense lawyers argued that prosecuting DePape in a state court for the same criminal acts that he had already been convicted of in federal court amounted to double jeopardy, banned by Fifth Amendment.

DePape still faces five state charges, including false imprisonment, felony burglary and aggravated kidnapping. He could face a sentence of up to life in prison on those charges if convicted. The trial is expected to resume on June 14.

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Halina Bennet, Ama Sarpomaa and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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