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US: Man who attacked former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband sentenced to 30 years in prison

On October 28, 2022, David DePape broke into former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home in San Francisco and attacked her husband Paul, 82, with a hammer, causing life-long injuries. DePape testified that he intended to kidnap Nancy Pelosi and "break her kneecaps" if she lied to him.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee San Francisco Published on: May 18, 2024 11:06 IST
Nancy pelosi, Paul Pelosi
Image Source : REUTERS (FILE) Former US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul Pelosi.

San Francisco: It has been over a year since a man broke into former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home in 2022 and attacked her husband with a hammer. On Friday, David DePape, the attacker, was convicted of attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assault on the immediate family member of a federal official, and sentenced to 30 years in prison, although prosecutors asked the court to give him 40 years in prison.

In a politically motivated attack, DePape forcibly entered Pelosi's home in San Francisco early in the morning on October 28, 2022, just a week before that year's congressional elections, while Pelosi was in Washington. DePape acknowledged in trial testimony that his intention was to take Pelosi hostage. Prosecutors described him as being influenced by far-right conspiracy theories known as QAnon.

DePape confronted Pelosi's husband, Paul, and clubbed him over the head with a hammer before police who had been called to the scene were able to subdue the attacker. Paul Pelosi, who was 82 at the time, suffered two head wounded including a skull fracture that was mended with plates and screws which he will have for the rest of his life. In addition to dizziness and a metal plate in his head, Paul Pelosi said he struggles with balance and has permanent nerve damage in his left hand.

DePape's trial

Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley sentenced DePape to 20 years for attempted kidnapping and 30 years for the assault, the maximum for both counts. He was also given credit for the 18 months he has been in custody. However, prosecutors later filed a motion saying the court failed to offer the defendant “to speak or present any information to mitigate the sentence" as required by federal rule.

Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat who was the first woman to be elected House speaker, urged the judge to impose a "very long" punishment. She noted that DePape reportedly shouted "Where's Nancy?" upon breaking into her home, echoing what some intruders yelled inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, when a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the building seeking to overturn President Joe Biden's election.

DePape is a Canadian national found to be living illegally in the US. In court papers, the Justice Department argued that while he was not convicted of a terrorism crime, his offences nevertheless met the definition because he was aiming to affect the government through "intimidation or coercion." Prosecutors also said DePape had not shown remorse for his actions.

The accused stood silently as he was sentenced and looked down at times. His public defence 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. Before sentencing, Christine Pelosi read her father and mother's victim statements, explaining how the violent attack changed their lives.

Accused intended to kidnap Pelosi, 'break her kneecaps'

DePape admitted during trial testimony that he broke into the Pelosis' home in October 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 unravelling.

DePape's defence attorneys argued that he did not want to interfere with Nancy Pelosi's official duties as a member of the US Congress but was heavily motivated by his political beliefs, most likely due to being estranged from his family. He also testified about his belief that news outlets repeatedly published lies about former US President Donald Trump.

Paul Pelosi recalled that 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 recognise that somebody had broken into the house, and looking at him and looking at the hammer and the ties, I recognised that I was in serious danger, so I tried to stay as calm as possible,” Pelosi told jurors.

DePape also is 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. He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempted murder, which carries a potential sentence of 13 years in prison.

(with inputs from agencies)

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