Watch CBS News

David DePape found guilty of federal charges in Paul Pelosi assault

San Francisco jury convicts man charged in hammer attack on Paul Pelosi
San Francisco jury convicts man charged in hammer attack on Paul Pelosi 02:38

David DePape, accused of bludgeoning U.S. Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi's husband Paul Pelosi with a hammer at the couple's San Francisco mansion last year, was found guilty of the charges in a federal court Thursday.

DePape was convicted of two charges: attempting to kidnap a federal official and assaulting an immediate family member of a federal official with intent to retaliate against the official for performance of their duties. 

There was no visible reaction from DePape as the jury's decision was announced in the courtroom. The jury deliberated for about eight hours before coming to their verdict. 

"In America, people are free to believe whatever they want and engage in passionate political debate," said U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey outside the courtroom. "This guilty verdict on all counts sends a clear message, that regardless of what your beliefs are, what you cannot do is physically attack a member of Congress or their immediate family for their performance of their job."

Shocking attack

The attack on the then-82-year-old Paul Pelosi just days before last year's midterm elections was captured on police bodycam video and sent shockwaves through the political world, the latest incident of violence attributed to demonizing political rhetoric.   

David DePape verdict
David DePape listens to the verdicts in his federal trial for the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, Nov. 16, 2023. Sketch by Vicki Behringer

When he took the stand on Tuesday, DePape told jurors he went to seek out Nancy Pelosi as part of a larger plan to end what he viewed as government corruption, a view reinforced by his endless consumption of right-wing media and outlandish conspiracy theories. 

DePape's defense did not dispute that the 43-year-old struck Paul Pelosi multiple times with a hammer, fracturing his skull and injuring his hands and arms, after breaking into the Pelosis' home on Oct. 28, 2022. His attorneys had argued that he was not seeking to go after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi because of her official duties as a member of Congress and so the charges did not fit. 

David DePape verdict
David DePape (center) looks on as his attorneys Angela Chuang (left) and Jodi Linker (right) speak to him following the guilty verdicts in his federal trial, Nov. 16, 2023. Sketch by Vicki Behringer

"The defense here, we will not know ever probably, why this defendant chose to go to trial," said UC Law San Francisco's Rory Little. "My guess is that he wanted to take the stand. One of the questions is why didn't they raise an insanity defense. He looks pretty deluded."

Instead, defense attorneys tried to dispute the charges, by arguing the attack was driven by right-wing misinformation and confused anger -- not a deliberate targeting of Pelosi because of her role as a member of congress.

"The defense attorney, Jodi Linker, is a talented lawyer," Little said. "A very talented lawyer. She made a case that looked absolutely open and shut, she made it sound quite complicated."

With the conviction, DePape faces up to 50 years in prison.

Pelosi family statement

Nancy Pelosi's spokesperson Aaron Bennett released the following statement following the verdicts:

"Speaker Pelosi and her family are deeply grateful for the outpouring of prayers and warm wishes for Mr. Pelosi from so many across the country during this difficult time.  The Pelosi family is very proud of their Pop, who demonstrated extraordinary composure and courage on the night of the attack a year ago and in the courtroom this week.  Thankfully, Mr. Pelosi continues to make progress in his recovery.

"Given the ongoing state court proceedings, Speaker Pelosi and the Pelosi family will not be offering further comment on this matter."

A Canadian citizen who was living in a garage in the East Bay city of Richmond at the time of the attack, DePape said he spent endless hours consuming right-wing media outlets, YouTube videos, and podcasts. He tearfully testified that he became a follower of Donald Trump after coming to believe that mainstream news outlets repeatedly spread lies about the former president.

David DePape weeps while testifying at his federal trial in the attack on Paul Pelosi, Nov. 14, 2023. Sketch by Vicki Behringer

"At that time I was biased against Trump. But there's, like, truth there," he said through sobs. "So if there's truth out there that I don't know, I want to know it."  

According to DePape's own testimony, the intrusion at the Pelosis' home was to be the first in a list of targets that included progressive politicians and celebrities that he came to believe were part of a sinister cabal driving the country to ruin. Other names on his list included California Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Congressman Adam Schiff, actor Tom Hanks, President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden, and Bay Area scholar and University of Michigan professor of women's and queer studies Dr. Gayle Rubin, identified as Target 1 in court papers.

DePape testified that his plan was to get Nancy Pelosi and other targets to admit to their corruption. "If she lied, I would break her kneecaps," he said. "The choice is on her." He then wanted President Joe Biden to pardon the targets "so we can move forward as a country."

"Serious danger"

Earlier this week, Paul Pelosi testified and recounted details of the attack publicly for the first time, saying he was awoken by a large man bursting into his bedroom asking, "Where's Nancy?" When he told DePape she was in Washington, DC, DePape responded he would tie him up while they waited for her.

"It was a tremendous sense of shock to recognize that somebody had broken into the house and looking at him and looking at the hammer and the ties, I recognized that I was in serious danger, so I tried to stay as calm as possible," Pelosi testified.

Pelosi managed to call 911 even as DePape looked on, telling Pelosi to tell police that he was a friend. Pelosi said he recalled being thankful when the police arrived as he had apparently avoided the worst. But when an officer ordered DePape to drop the hammer both he and Pelosi were holding onto, he instead pushed Pelosi and "whacked me on the head." Pelosi said he remembered waking up in a pool of blood.

More than a year after the attack, Pelosi said he had not fully recovered.

State trial still ahead

DePape testified he thought he had killed Paul Pelosi until he saw he had been charged by San Francisco prosecutors with attempted murder.

"He was never my target and I'm sorry that he got hurt," DePape said.

DePape has also pleaded not guilty to charges in state court of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary and other felonies. 

"We are aware of the verdict in the federal prosecution of Mr. DePape. We will confer with the federal prosecutors and with the victim in this case as we determine what our next steps in the state case will be," said San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins in a prepared statement. "Mr. DePape is facing a different set of charges in our case including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, and false imprisonment. We are confident in our case and are prepared to move forward to trial. Mr. DePape's next court date is November 29, 2023 to set a trial date."

Wilson Walker contributed to this story. It has been updated to correct the potential sentence DePape now faces.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.