Alleged Pelosi attacker now faces federal and state charges

Michael Short/San Francisco Chronicle via AP
David Depape is shown in Berkeley, Calif.,on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. An intruder attacked and severely beat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer in the couple’s San Francisco home early Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, while searching for the Democratic leader.

Federal authorities on Monday filed attempted kidnapping and assault charges against the alleged home invader accused of striking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer in front of police officers, and later claiming he wanted to break her kneecaps to send a message to other Democrats.

The charges were contained in a court filing that recounts incriminating statements that the defendant, David Wayne DePape, 42, made following his arrest in the early morning hours Friday at the Pelosi home in San Francisco.

The court papers offer a horrifying summary of Pelosi’s 82-year-old husband, Paul Pelosi, being awakened in the middle of the night by a strange man in his bedroom, demanding to know where his wife was. When Paul Pelosi said she would not be back home for days, DePape allegedly said he would wait.

At some point during their confrontation, Paul Pelosi was able to get to a bathroom and call 911, which brought police officers to the scene, the court papers said.

When the door to the home was opened, the responding officers saw a strange situation: The elderly resident opened the door, but he was simultaneously holding onto a hammer in DePape’s hand, while DePape gripped Paul Pelosi’s arm with his other hand, according to court papers.

Officers told the men to drop the hammer, at which point DePape wrested the tool free and struck Paul Pelosi with it in the head, knocking him unconscious, the affidavit said.

After he was taken into custody, DePape said he planned to “hold Nancy hostage and talk to her,” according to the charging papers. “If Nancy were to tell ‘the truth,’ he would let her go, and if she ‘lied’ he was going to break ‘her kneecaps’,” the charging papers said.

In the confession, which authorities say was recorded, DePape allegedly claimed he was certain Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would not tell the truth. According to the affidavit filed by an FBI agent, DePape claimed Nancy Pelosi was the “leader of the pack” of lies told by the Democratic Party, and that if he broke her kneecaps “she would then have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other Members of Congress there were consequences to actions.” DePape allegedly told authorities he was “tired from having had to carry a backpack to the home,” so he had “wanted to tie [Paul] Pelosi up” so he could sleep.

He also claimed that he wanted to “use Nancy to lure another individual” to him, the affidavit said, without identifying who that other individual might be.

DePape was charged with attempting to kidnap a federal official – Nancy Pelosi – and assaulting an immediate relative of a federal official.

Later Monday, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced DePape also would face state charges, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary, false imprisonment, and threatening the life or serious bodily harm to a public official.

In a news conference, Jenkins revealed additional details about the attack, including that Paul Pelosi – who was dressed in a “loosefitting pajama top and boxer shorts” – allegedly had first tried to access an elevator which has a phone but was blocked by DePape.

Jenkins said DePape took Pelosi downstairs after Pelosi called 911 from his cellphone. She said it was not clear which man opened the door to officers responding to the 911 call. Jenkins declined to comment on what DePape told officers at the scene – saying new details would be revealed in court Tuesday, where the suspect is scheduled to be arraigned on local charges.

The attack had raised questions about security at Pelosi’s home, where the House speaker had been subject to previous threats. Jenkins and San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, who also appeared at the news conference, confirmed there were no security personnel at Pelosi’s home at the time of the attack. Pressed on why SFPD did not have a “formal agreement” with the U.S. Capitol Police related to security at Pelosi’s home, Scott replied, “There may be in the future.”

Both Jenkins and Scott appeared visibly shaken when discussing the attack on Paul Pelosi, with Jenkins saying it was clearly a “politically motivated” attack.

“Violence has no place in this city. And we will work vigorously to hold the defendant accountable. . . . As leaders and as citizens, it is incumbent upon us all, to watch the words that we say and to turn down the volume of our political rhetoric,” Jenkins said. “We should be able to all engage in passionate political discourse but still remain respectful of one another. Violence certainly has no place in San Francisco, or in politics.”

As of Monday, Paul Pelosi was recovering in Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital following surgery for a fractured skull and other injuries from the attack early Friday. He is expected to make a full recovery. In a statement issued Monday evening, Nancy Pelosi said: “Thanks to the excellent trauma care medical team at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, Paul is making steady progress on what will be a long recovery process. Our family thanks everyone for their kindness.”

The new charges come as Republicans and others on the right amplified misinformation and outright falsehoods about last week’s violent assault on Paul Pelosi.

The innuendo about the attack that billionaire Elon Musk and right-wing personalities spread on social media this past weekend showed no signs of abating Monday, as elected officials and other conservatives perpetuated wild theories.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) retweeted a thread from far-right activist Matt Walsh challenging the notion that the alleged assailant was a militant right-winger, despite his blog in which he appears to have been deeply drawn into election falsehoods and political conspiracy theories.

Cruz quoted the thread dismissing DePape as “a hippie nudist from Berkeley” with one word: “truth.”

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) tweeted and deleted a post Sunday that pushed a conspiracy theory about the violent attack and included a photo of Nancy Pelosi.

During a campaign event Monday, Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for Arizona governor who opposes most forms of gun control, was talking about how Democrats demand to protect children in schools.

“Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in D.C., but apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection,” Lake said, as some in the crowd and the man interviewing her laughed.

Terrence K. Williams, a conservative comedian who spoke at the White House during the Trump presidency, tweeted false information about Paul Pelosi and the suspect.

And Donald Trump Jr., son of the former president, tweeted images that highlighted the falsehood on Halloween.

The Washington Post confirmed that a voluminous blog written under DePape’s name was filled with deeply antisemitic writings and baseless claims, as well as pro-Donald Trump and anti-Democratic posts. It was registered to a house in Richmond, Calif., where DePape lives, according to neighbors.

Nancy Pelosi made her first public comments about the matter on Saturday night in a “Dear Colleague” letter to members of Congress, referring to how “a violent man broke into our family home, demanded to confront me and brutally attacked my husband Paul.”

She thanked supporters, saying that “the outpouring of prayers and warm wishes from so many in the Congress is a comfort to our family and is helping Paul make progress with his recovery.” The letter didn’t make any political attacks but quoted a Bible verse from Isaiah 41:10 that begins: “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.”

U.S. Capitol Police said it was assisting the FBI and San Francisco police in investigating the break-in and attack.

The Capitol Police, the agency responsible for protecting members of Congress, has reported a sharp increase in threats against lawmakers in recent years, and threats have sharply escalated since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The agency said the number of cases involving threats against members of Congress rose from about 4,000 in 2017 to more than 9,600 last year.

Paul Pelosi owns Financial Leasing Services, a San Francisco-based real estate and venture capital investment and consulting firm. He met his wife while studying at Georgetown University. She was a student at Trinity College at the time. The Pelosis have been married for 59 years and have five children.