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Paul Pelosi attack: David DePape appears in court, pleads not guilty

David DePape is pictured in Berkeley on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. DePape attacked Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with a hammer on Oct. 28, 2022 and faces criminal charges from federal officials and San Francisco prosecutors. | Michael Short/SF Chronicle via Getty Images

The alleged attacker of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband pleaded not guilty in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday.

Local prosecutor Phoebe Maffei argued that 42-year-old suspect and Richmond resident, David DePape—who allegedly attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer on Oct. 28—should remain in jail without bail, saying that he was a threat to the public.

DePape was also served a protective order requiring him to stay away from the speaker and her husband. He appeared with his arm in a sling, wearing an orange jumpsuit.

The attack has reignited a national debate around political violence and the safety of high-profile politicians. 

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said the attack was “violent and depraved” ahead of DePape’s court appearance. 

DePape entered the not guilty plea with his court-appointed attorney, deputy public defender Adam Lipson. 

Speaking after the hearing, Lipson said: "There has also been a lot of speculation regarding Mr. DePape’s vulnerability to misinformation, that is certainly something that we are going to look into."

David DePape's public defender, Adam Lipson, addressed the media outside the San Francisco Superior Court after DePape's first hearing on Nov. 1, 2022. | Video by Jonah Owen Lamb

DePape had been living in an East Bay garage and was politically right-wing, according to neighbors. 

He appears to have written several conspiracy-theory-laden blog posts as recently as August and was previously in a relationship with the locally well-known nudist activist Gypsy Taub. 

DePape was charged with attempted murder, burglary, elder abuse, assault with a deadly weapon and threatening a family member of an elected official. 

He faces 13 years to life in prison if convicted, Jenkins said in a press conference Monday. 

"I don't believe at all that it's representative of the state of public safety in San Francisco," said Jenkins after the arraignment. "I think it's more so representative of the state of politics in the United States."

Judge Diane Northway said DePape will return to court Friday for a bail decision and will be held without bail in the meantime.

‘Break her kneecaps’

Illustration of David DePape in court in San Francisco on Nov. 1, 2022. | Vicki Behringer

DePape planned to find the speaker and hold her hostage, according to a federal complaint. He told law enforcement that he wanted to ask her about the “truth.” If she answered truthfully he planned to release her, but if she “lied,” he would “break her kneecaps.”  

DePape said that after breaking the speaker’s kneecaps, "she would then have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other members of Congress there were consequences to actions," the complaint reads. DePape allegedly hit Mr. Pelosi in the head with a hammer “at least once” before police officers arrested him, police Chief Bill Scott said Friday.

Police interviewed Pelosi in the ambulance after the attack. He told an officer that he was woken up in his bedroom by a man he did not know. DePape then told Mr. Pelosi he wanted to talk to “Nancy.”

Mr. Pelosi is expected to make a full, though not fast, recovery. “Paul is making steady progress on what will be a long recovery process," the speaker tweeted Monday.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at