The conspiratorial attacker who attacked the husband of former Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi with a gavel in October 2022, a few days before the US mid-term elections, was found guilty on Thursday by a San Francisco court.
Jurors convicted David DePape of the violent attack, during which he fractured Paul Pelosi’s skull, and also found him guilty of attempting to kidnap Nancy Pelosi. His sentence, which could go up to life, must be pronounced at a later date.
At the time Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi was the third person in the American state and was regularly the target of conspiracy theories fueled by the far right. The trial showed how David DePape, a Canadian carpenter in an illegal and fairly solitary situation, was immersed in a world poisoned by disinformation before taking action. He “deliberately targeted” Nancy Pelosi “because of her work, her role in our political system,” said prosecutor Helen Gilbert.
Paul Pelosi ‘was never my target’
At times in tears, the 43-year-old recounted during the trial how he became an avid listener of far-right podcasts. On social networks, he notably shared publications claiming that American elites were corrupt and engaged in pedophilia, or that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.
Paul Pelosi “was never my target and I am sorry that he was hurt,” ured David DePape. He said he attacked him when he realized his “plan was essentially ruined.” By breaking into the Pelosi couple’s home in San Francisco with rope, gloves and duct tape, he initially wanted to attack the parliamentarian, who was in Washington that day. He admitted to investigators that he planned to “break her kneecaps” if she did not admit to the “lies” of the Democratic camp.
But sequestering Nancy Pelosi was only the first step in a larger plan, the defendant admitted in court. His nebulous plan included other targets, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, the president’s son Hunter Biden and actor Tom Hanks.
“It was so traumatic”
His defense focused on portraying a man consumed by what he thought was an anti-corruption crusade. A line that led David DePape to plead not guilty. Without contesting the attack, his lawyers maintained that he was primarily motivated by his conspiratorial beliefs, and that he did not specifically target Ms. Pelosi in her capacity as a federal official – an essential factor according to the prosecution to understand both the ault and the planned kidnapping.
“David DePape did horrible things (…), he committed serious crimes that night,” admitted his lawyer Angela Chuang. “But he did not commit these two crimes” because of Ms. Pelosi’s official position, she insisted.
During David DePape’s intrusion, Paul Pelosi managed to alert the police, who intervened at the last minute. The attack was filmed by the officers’ pedestrian camera. Images that the octogenarian, who was hospitalized for almost a week and had to be operated on, still refuses to see more than a year after the events. “It was so traumatic. I did everything in my power not to go through that again,” he told jurors.
After this federal trial, David DePape must now be tried by Californian courts.