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Pelosi hammer attacker faces life in prison after kidnapping conviction

A still from policy body cam footage showing David Depape and Paul Pelosi struggle over a hammer in the threshold of a home.
Body camera footage shows David DePape attacking Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul Pelosi at their Pacific Heights home in 2022. On Friday, a San Francisco jury found DePape guilty of multiple charges in connection with the incident. | Source: Courtesy San Francisco Superior Court

A man sentenced to 30 years in federal prison in the attack against former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband was convicted Friday by a San Francisco jury of aggravated kidnapping, a conviction that mandates life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

A San Francisco jury found David DePape also guilty of first-degree burglary, false imprisonment of an elder, threatening a family member of a public official and dissuading a witness.

The convictions on the additional charges come weeks after a federal judge sentenced DePape for the 2022 attack against Paul Pelosi.

“Speaker Pelosi and her family remain in awe of their Pop’s bravery, which shone through again on the witness stand in this trial just as it did when he saved his own life on the night of the attack,” Pelosi’s office wrote in an emailed statement Friday. “For nearly 20 grueling months, Mr. Pelosi has demonstrated extraordinary courage and fortitude every day of his recovery.”

Paul Pelosi in the passenger seat of a vehicle.
Paul Pelosi leaves the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in November after testifying in the federal trial of David DePape. | Source: Noah Berger/AP Photo

DePape’s public defender Adam Lipson said he was disappointed with the verdict and plans to appeal it. He called the prosecutors’ decision to file a kidnapping for ransom charge “vindictive.”

“It’s really unfortunate that it was charged this way. It was sort of a textbook vindictive prosecution,” Lipson said. “As soon as they found that the attempted murder charge was going to be dismissed, they added this charge.”

Lipson said that the verdict means that after DePape serves 30 years in federal prison, he will be transferred to a California prison “to spend the rest of his life in a California prison.”

Lipson told the jury during closing arguments this week that DePape was guilty of three of the charges but that prosecutors had not presented evidence to convict him of threatening a family member of a public official and aggravated kidnapping.

Previously, a federal jury convicted DePape of assaulting a federal official’s family member and attempting to kidnap a federal official. On May 28, he was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison during an unusual resentencing hearing that resulted from judicial error.

A photo closeup of David DePape.
An attorney for David DePape, pictured in 2013, says he plans to appeal the verdict. | Source: Michael Short/SF Chronicle via Getty Images

Lipson earlier argued that the state trial represents double jeopardy following the federal conviction. Even though the criminal counts are not the same, the two cases stem from the same act, he told the judge.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harry Dorfman agreed and dismissed the state charges of attempted murder, elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon. Another judge upheld the decision on appeal.

Lipson focused his closing arguments on explaining to the jury that prosecutors did not prove DePape kidnapped Paul Pelosi, who was 82 at the time, with the intent “to exact from another person money or something valuable,” which is integral to the charge.

Assistant District Attorney Phoebe Maffei told the jury in her closing arguments that DePape had planned to record a video of his interrogation of Nancy Pelosi.

Lipson argued the video didn’t exist and if it did, it wouldn’t have had any value.

“When he broke into the Pelosis’ home his intent was to confront and potentially hurt and assault Nancy Pelosi. That was his intent at that time, that has nothing to do with Mr. Pelosi,” he said.

In her rebuttal, Maffei pointed out that DePape told a detective and testified in federal court that he planned to get a video of Nancy Pelosi confessing to what he believed to be crimes and post it on the internet.

“There is inherent value in a video of the Speaker of the House confessing to crimes in her own home,” Maffei said.

The attack on Paul Pelosi was captured on police body camera video just days before the 2022 midterm elections and shocked the political world. He suffered two head wounds including a skull fracture that was mended with plates and screws he will have for the rest of his life. His right arm and hand were also injured.

On Monday, Maffei told the jury DePape unleashed a “reign of terror” on Paul Pelosi before bludgeoning him with a hammer as part of a plan he put together over months.

“The plain facts of this case are terrifying by themselves without embellishment,” Maffei said. “David DePape broke into the home of an 82-year-old man while he slept, entered his bedroom, held him hostage with a hammer, threatened him, threatened his wife and attempted to kill him.”

DePape admitted during his federal trial testimony that he planned to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage, record his interrogation of her, and “break her kneecaps” if she did not admit to the lies he said she told about “Russiagate,” a reference to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Lipson told the jury during closing arguments that before the attack, DePape was living an isolated, lonely life and “went down the rabbit hole of propaganda and conspiracy theories.”

This week the judge expelled DePape’s former partner from the public gallery and the second floor of the San Francisco courthouse because the judge said she was trying to tamper with the jury.

On Monday and Tuesday, Gypsy Taub, a well-known activist in the Bay Area, handed out pieces of paper outside the courtroom with the address of a website she runs that promotes conspiracy theories. The cards were also found in a women’s bathroom near the courtroom, where the website’s address was scrawled in marker on a wall.

“You have been trying to corruptly influence one or more jury members,” Dorfman said sternly before asking two bailiffs to escort Taub out of the courtroom.

DePape’s federal public defender said during his federal sentencing that DePape was first exposed to extreme beliefs by Taub, who has two sons with DePape.

Taub met DePape in Hawaii when he was 20 years old and she was in her 30s and pregnant, DePape’s twin sister, Joanne Robinson, said in a letter to the federal judge seeking leniency.

Robinson wrote that Taub isolated DePape from his family and inflicted “extreme psychological damage” on her brother.