Suspect in US attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband pleads not guilty

David DePape reportedly told police he planned to break the US House Speaker’s kneecaps but found her husband instead.

A court sketch of David DePape
A November court sketch shows David DePape at a hearing over charges he attacked Paul Pelosi, husband of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi [File: Vicki Behringer/Reuters]

A United States man has appeared in court on Wednesday to face a formal arraignment after being accused of breaking into the home of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and beating her husband with a hammer.

David DePape of Richmond, California, entered a plea of “not guilty” on Wednesday to six state charges – including attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon – in relation to the October attack that left 82-year-old Paul Pelosi with a fractured skull, as well as injuries to his arms and hands.

DePape, 42, is scheduled to return to court on February 23, when a judge is set to consider a trial date. He continues to be held in custody without bail. DePape also faces federal charges for the same attack.

The break-in and beating happened 11 days before the US faced its midterm elections, with control of Congress hanging in the balance.

As the first woman ever to serve as the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi has been a keystone figure in the Democratic Party, shaping and rallying support for its legislation. She is currently second in line to the presidency and would take power if US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were ever incapacitated.

In an interview with the San Francisco Police Department, DePape allegedly said he targeted Pelosi because he felt she was “leader of the pack” and he wanted to confront her over what he believed to be Democrat lies.

According to federal investigators, he planned to shatter Pelosi’s kneecaps if he thought she was lying, so she would have to enter Congress in a wheelchair, showing other lawmakers that “there were consequences to [their] actions”.

Prosecutors have sought to link DePape to far-right conspiracy theories, saying he aimed to strike a blow against what he considered “tyranny”. A San Francisco police sergeant testified earlier this month that DePape said there was “evil in Washington”, referring to the Democrat-led government.

DePape is also alleged to have compared his actions to that of the Founding Fathers, a set of prominent US leaders who opposed British rule during the American Revolution.

The break-in began in the early hours of October 28, 2022, when DePape reportedly used a hammer to enter through a glass door of the Pelosi family’s San Francisco home. Hoping to find Nancy Pelosi, he instead found Paul, her husband of nearly 60 years.

Paul Pelosi reportedly told DePape that the House Speaker would not be home for several days and DePape decided to wait for her return, taking out a set of zip ties to restrain Paul.

But while the two men spoke, Paul Pelosi managed to slip into a bathroom and dial 911 for emergency services.

A brick house belonging to Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco
David DePape reportedly entered the San Francisco home of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul through a glass door [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

Though the call was short, a dispatcher sent police to the home. Officers arrived to discover the two men grappling over DePape’s hammer, with DePape wresting the tool from Paul Pelosi’s hand and swinging it at his head.

Paul Pelosi lost consciousness and later woke up in a pool of his blood. He has since worn a hat and gloves to hide his injuries during public appearances.

Along with charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, DePape also faces state charges including elder abuse, first-degree residential burglary, false imprisonment and threatening a family member of a public official.

His federal charges include one count of assaulting the family member of a US official and one count of attempted kidnapping against a US official, which carry maximum sentences of 30 and 20 years in prison, respectively.

In the weeks after the attack, the November midterm elections resulted in the Democratic Party retaining a slim majority in the US Senate. But the party lost its hold over the House of Representatives, where Pelosi serves as House Speaker.

When the newly elected Congress convenes on January 3, Pelosi is expected to cede the position to Republican Kevin McCarthy. Pelosi has also announced she will step down as the Democrat leader in the House, with New York representative, Hakeem Jeffries, set to take her place as chair of the Democratic caucus in the new year.

Pelosi has spent 35 years in Congress, representing the California district that includes part of the populous, left-leaning San Francisco Bay Area. She plans to remain in office.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies