Paul Pelosi testifies in federal trial of David DePape, accused of hammer attack; “I recognized that I was in grave danger”

Paul Pelosi described on the witness stand Monday the shocking break-in at his and his wife Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco mansion last year that culminated in a brutal hammer attack that fractured his skull.

The testimony came during the federal trial of David DePape, accused of assaulting Pelosi and plans to kidnap the former Speaker of the House.

During his testimony, Paul Pelosi described the moment on October 28, 2022, when he was awakened to find an intruder in his bedroom.

Q: What woke you up?

A: The door opened and a very large man entered with a hammer in one hand and some [zip]ribbon in the other

Q: When you saw the defendant the first time, were you lying down?

A: Yes, and sleeping. When he burst through the door he woke me up.

Q: How far was he from you?

A: He was standing in the doorway, he was 3 to 4 feet [away] … It was a tremendous shock, to look at him, to look at the hammer and ties … I recognized that I was in serious danger, I tried to keep as calm as possible.

Paul Pelosi (center) testifies at the federal trial of David DePape (left) as he is questioned by prosecutor Laura Vartain-Horn on November 13, 2023.

Sketch by Vicki Behringer

Pelosi said DePape asked several times, “Where’s Nancy?” and he told him that she was in Washington DC, to which he replied that he should wait for her.

“He said she was the leader of the pack, he had to take her out, he was going to wait for her,” Pelosi said. “He would tie me up and wait for her.”

Pelosi said he was able to go to his bathroom, where his cell phone was charging, and he grabbed it and called 911. He also testified that there are surveillance cameras inside the couple’s Pacific Heights home as well as an alarm system. However, Pelosi said on the night of the attack that he did not set the alarm because he did not set it until he left the house.

When police arrived at the house, Pelosi said he was relieved he appeared to have avoided the worst. But after an officer ordered DePape to drop the hammer, he instead pushed Pelosi and “hit me in the head.” Pelosi said he remembers waking up later in a pool of blood.

Pelosi’s daughter Christine Pelosi sat in the back of the courtroom and watched and listened intently as her father recounted the violent attack.

“I’ve tried to put it out of my mind”

DePape has pleaded not guilty to attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assault on the immediate family member of a federal official with the intent to retaliate against the official for the performance of their duties.

The attack, just days before that year’s midterm elections, also left Pelosi with serious injuries to his right arm and hands in addition to his fractured skull. He underwent surgery after the assault, and Pelosi testified Monday that he is close to a full recovery and has tried to turn the page.

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 14, 2022: Representative of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) attends the ceremony for the unveiling of her official portrait with husband Paul Pelosi in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on Wednesday, December 14. 2022. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Washington Post

“I have not discussed this incident with anyone. And I have encouraged my family not to either,” he said Monday. “I’ve tried to put it out of my mind. It was first [the prosecutor’s] meeting with you and your staff that I talked about this. I’ve made the best effort I possibly can to not relive this.”

“The government is showing that there was an assault and that DePape knew he was committing an assault. That’s really all they have to show,” UC San Francisco law professor Rory Little explained.

Public defenders did not ask Pelosi any questions.

“It would have been a mistake to cross-examine him. I don’t think he had anything to say that could possibly have helped their client,” Little said

Law enforcement testimony, surveillance video

Earlier Monday, a number of law enforcement officials testified about the attack and the investigation, including two FBI agents — one who collected the electronics DePape was carrying and another who presented surveillance video of DePape’s movements on BART and San Francisco Muni hours before the attack.

Other testimony came from a US Capitol Police officer who monitors the surveillance cameras at the Pelosis’ home, and another who has protected Nancy Pelosi since 2006. US Capitol Special Agent Dwight Littlejohn arrived at the start of his shift at 6 p.m. October 28 and learned of the assault on Paul Pelosi; both left for San Francisco later that day.

Some of the witnesses helped verify time stamps on footage from surveillance cameras at the Pelosis’ home, which are set to Eastern Time, and on BART trains, which were an hour behind Pacific Time.

Prosecutors exhibited surveillance video of DePape smashing through the glass patio door of the home, as well as slow-motion body camera footage of the attack from one of the officers who responded to Paul Pelosi’s 911 call.

Still from police bodycam video released by San Francisco Superior Court showing suspects David DePape and Paul Pelosi appearing to hold a hammer.

San Francisco Superior Court

Another witness was Jason Matthes, the general counsel of Spokeo, a search engine that allows people to look up personal addresses and contact information from online and offline sources. Matthes testified that DePape sought Nancy Pelosi’s information seven days before the attack.

Defense attorney Jodi Linker told jurors last week that she will not dispute that DePape attacked Paul Pelosi in an encounter caught on police body camera video. She will argue for that instead he believed “with every ounce of his being” that he was taking action to stop government corruption and the abuse of children by politicians and actors. She said that means the government’s charge that DePape tried to retaliate or interfere with Nancy Pelosi’s official duties doesn’t fit.

Federal prosecutor Laura Vartain Horn told jurors during opening statements Thursday that DePape began planning the attack in August and that the evidence and FBI testimony will show he researched his targets online, collected phone numbers and addresses, and even paid for a public records service for to find information. on Nancy Pelosi and others.

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It is unclear whether Depape will testify in the coming days or take the 5th and remain silent.

“The whole case is going to hinge on what DePape says. And if he doesn’t say anything, it looks like it’s going to be very difficult for the defense to mount any kind of defense at all,” Little said.

The prosecution’s last witness, a neurosurgeon, is expected to testify tomorrow when the trial resumes on Tuesday.

If convicted, DePape faces up to life in prison. He has also pleaded not guilty to charges in state court of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary and other crimes. A state trial is not planned.

After his arrest, DePape, 43, reportedly told a San Francisco detective that he wanted to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage. He said that if she told him the truth, he would let her go, and if she lied, he would “break her kneecaps” to show other members of Congress that there were “consequences for actions,” according to prosecutors.

DePape, who lived in a garage in the Bay Area city of Richmond and had done odd carpentry jobs to support himself, reportedly told authorities he had other targets, including a women’s and queer studies professor, California Governor Gavin Newsom, actor Tom Hanks and President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

Kathleen Seccombe and Kenny Choi contributed to this report

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