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The man accused of attacking Nancy Pelosi’s husband was caught up in conspiracies, defense says

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The man accused of bludgeoning former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer was caught up in conspiracies when he broke into her San Francisco home last year, his defense attorney said at his trial opened Thursday.

The attack on then-82-year-old Paul Pelosi in the early hours of Oct. 28, 2022, sent shockwaves through the political world just days before last year’s midterm elections.

Defense attorney Jodi Linker said Thursday she won’t dispute that her client David DePape attacked Paul Pelosi, an encounter caught on police body camera video. Instead, she will argue that he believed “with every ounce of his body” that he was taking action to stop corruption and the abuse of children by politicians and actors.

“This is not a ‘whodunit.’ But what the government fails to acknowledge is the ‘whydunit,’ and the why matters in this case,” she said.

Earlier Coverage
Police investigators work outside the home of Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in San Francisco, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Paul Pelosi, was attacked and severely beaten by an assailant with a hammer who broke into their San Francisco home early Friday, according to people familiar with the investigation. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)Intruder attacks Pelosi’s husband, calling, ‘Where is Nancy’FILE - Paul Pelosi attends a portrait unveiling ceremony for his wife, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 14, 2022. The man charged in last year's attack against former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband is scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday, July 19, 2023, to request the trial be moved out of San Francisco. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)Judge rejects moving trial of man charged in Nancy Pelosi’s husband attack out of San FranciscoFILE - Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her husband, Paul Pelosi, arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors State Department Dinner, on Dec. 7, 2019, in Washington. On Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, a man broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s California home and severely beat her husband, Paul Pelosi, with a hammer. The 82-year-old underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands, and his doctors expect a full recovery, the speaker’s office said Friday. There were no updates on his condition Saturday. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)False claim that a male prostitute was found in Nancy Pelosi’s home reemerges after Trump indictment

DePape pleaded not guilty to attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assault on the immediate family member of a federal official with intent to retaliate against the official for performance of their duties. The crux of Linker’s argument is that DePape is not guilty of the charges because he was not after Nancy Pelosi to try to stop her from engaging in her official duties.

Federal prosecutor Laura Vartain Horn told jurors that DePape started planning the attack in August and that the evidence and FBI testimony will show he researched his targets online, collecting phone numbers and addresses, even paying for a public records service to find information about Nancy Pelosi and others.

During her opening statement, Vartain Horn showed a photo of Paul Pelosi lying in a pool of blood. She also played a call DePape made to a television station repeating conspiracy theories.

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“The evidence in this case is going show that when the defendant used this hammer to break into the Pelosi’s home he intended to kidnap Nancy Pelosi,” Vartain Horn said, holding a hammer inside a plastic evidence bag.

Prosecutors showed body camera video of DePape admitting to the attack while speaking to police and paramedics outside the Pelosis’ home.

“There is no denying what I did. Cops watched me do it,” he said.

Paul Pelosi is expected to testify next week.

DePape posted rants on a blog and an online forum about aliens, communists, religious minorities, and global elites. He questioned the results of the 2020 election and echoed the baseless, right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory that claims the U.S. government is run by a cabal of devil-worshipping pedophiles. The websites were taken down shortly after his arrest.

If convicted, DePape faces life in prison. He was also charged in state court with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary and other felonies. He pleaded not guilty to those charges. A state trial has not been scheduled.

In the courtroom Thursday were Christine Pelosi, one of the Pelosis’ daughters, as well as Gypsy Taub, DePape’s ex-girlfriend, and Taub’s and DePape’s two teenage sons. Taub called DePape’s name softly and blew a kiss, and he smiled and waved in return.

A Canadian citizen, DePape moved to the United States more than 20 years ago after falling in love with Taub, a Berkeley pro-nudity activist well-known in the Bay Area, his stepfather, Gene DePape said. In recent years, David DePape had been homeless and struggling with drug abuse and mental illness, Taub told local media.

Federal prosecutors say DePape smashed his shoulder through a glass panel on a door in the back of the Pelosis’ Pacific Heights mansion and confronted a sleeping Paul Pelosi, who was wearing boxer shorts and a pajama top.

“Where’s Nancy? Where’s Nancy?” DePape asked, standing over Paul Pelosi around 2 a.m. holding a hammer and zip ties, according to court records. Nancy Pelosi was in Washington and under the protection of her security detail, which does not extend to family members.

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Paul Pelosi called 911 and two police officers showed up and witnessed DePape strike Paul Pelosi in the head with a hammer, knocking him unconscious, court records showed.

FILE - Paul Pelosi attends a portrait unveiling ceremony for his wife, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE – Paul Pelosi attends a portrait unveiling ceremony for his wife, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Nancy Pelosi’s husband of 60 years later underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and injuries to his right arm and hands.

After his arrest, DePape, 43, allegedly told a San Francisco detective that he wanted to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage. He said that if she told him the truth, he would let her go and if she lied, he was going to “break her kneecaps” to show other members of Congress there were “consequences to actions,” according to prosecutors.

DePape, who lived in a garage in the Bay Area city of Richmond and had been doing odd carpentry jobs to support himself, allegedly told authorities he had other targets, including a women’s and queer studies professor, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, actor Tom Hanks and President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

One of those targets is included in the defense’s short witness list, though their name has been redacted. Other possible witnesses are DePape, Nancy Pelosi’s chief of staff, Daniel Bernal, extremism and antisemitism researcher Elizabeth Yates, and federal public defender Catherine Goulet.

The professor, who is also expected to testify next week, was DePape’s main target and he had gone to the Pelosis’ home to have Nancy Pelosi “lure her out,” said Linker, one of DePape’s defense attorneys.

“Why? Because of her writings,” Linker told the jury, “because he believes she is promoting child molestation, so-called groomer schools.”

The prosecution’s list of potential witnesses contains 15 names, including the surgeon who operated on Paul Pelosi, federal agents, San Francisco police officers and several first responders.