Nov 16 (Reuters) – A federal jury convicted a right-wing conspiracy theorist on Thursday of a hammer attack on the husband of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prosecutors said.
David Wayne DePape, 43, broke into the Pelosis’ home in San Francisco and hit Paul Pelosi over the head with a hammer in the early morning hours of October 28, 2022, while Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, was still speaker and away in Washington.
The jury in San Francisco, which had been deliberating since noon Wednesday, found him guilty of attempted kidnapping and assault of an immediate family member of a federal official, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The crimes carry potential prison terms of 20 years and 30 years, respectively, under federal sentencing guidelines.
DePape also faces additional charges, including attempted murder, in California state court that carry a potential sentence of 13 years to life in prison.
Nancy Pelosi issued a statement on behalf of her family, thanking people for their support and saying that Paul Pelosi continues to make progress in his recovery, but withheld comment on legal matters because the state case was still pending.
“The Pelosi family is very proud of their pop, who showed extraordinary composure and courage the night of the attack a year ago and in the courtroom this week,” the statement read.
Paul Pelosi was knocked unconscious and hospitalized for several days, undergoing surgery for a fractured skull. He also sustained injuries to his hands and right arm.
Testifying for the prosecution, Pelosi said he has tried not to relive the episode, including by avoiding the video clip of him being attacked, but that he remembered waking up on his floor in a “pool of blood.”
Defense attorney Jodi Linker argued during the trial that DePape did not commit a federal crime because he was not driven by Pelosi’s official duties as speaker. Instead, she argued that DePape’s firm belief in far-reaching but misguided conspiracy theories motivated him to overthrow the rich and powerful ruling class.
Linker left many of the facts of the case undisputed as the hammer blow was caught on police body cameras and DePape admitted his actions while testifying in his own defense.
Evidence showed that DePape was driven by right-wing conspiracy theories, embracing the fictions spread by QAnon, questioning the Holocaust, and fueling political accusations against Hunter Biden, the president’s son, and George Soros, the billionaire Holocaust survivor.
After the video of the attack was released, right-wing media outlets continued to promote unsubstantiated claims about the attack, imagining a homosexual relationship between the two men because Pelosi was wearing pajama shorts.
DePape told the jury he would kidnap Nancy Pelosi, interrogate her and break her kneecaps if he found her lying. But after breaking into the home, he instead found her husband, then aged 82, asleep in his bed. DePape said the attack was a reaction to his original plan going awry.
“He was never my target and I’m sorry he got hurt,” DePape said.
Police found zippers in the bedroom and in the hallway near the front door, plus a roll of tape, rope, another hammer, a pair of gloves and a journal in DePape’s backpack, according to court records.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Christopher Cushing and David Gregorio
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