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Paul Pelosi attack suspect pleads not guilty to attempted murder charge

In addition to the state charges, David DePape faces two serious federal charges in a case that will be handled before the local one.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — The California man accused of attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul in their home with a hammer this past Friday pleaded not guilty to a laundry list of state charges — including attempted murder — Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court.

Before a packed courtroom, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Diane Northway presided over the arraignment of David DePape, 41, of Richmond, a Bay Area suburb. DePape wore orange and had his arm in a sling due to a dislocated shoulder. 

The arraignment came a day after the San Francisco District Attorney’s office announced charges against DePape, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary, false imprisonment and threatening the life of or causing serious bodily harm to a public official.

DePape also faces federal charges including one count of assault of an immediate family member of a United States official with the intent to retaliate against the official on account of the performance of official duties, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. He also faces one count of attempted kidnapping of a United States official on account of the performance of official duties, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, according to a criminal complaint.

San Francisco police found DePape inside the Pelosi home around 2:30 a.m. Friday. Police Chief Bill Scott said officers who arrived at the Broadway Street residence in Pacific Heights saw Pelosi and the man both holding a hammer. He said DePape “pulled the hammer away from Mr. Pelosi and violently assaulted him with it” and officers tackled and disarmed the man, taking him into custody. 

Officers found a roll of tape, white rope, a second hammer, a pair of rubber and cloth gloves and zip ties. The federal complaint says DePape broke into the house looking for Speaker Pelosi and found her husband in bed. DePape told officers he was going to hold Speaker Pelosi hostage and talk to her, saying he views her as the “leader of the pack."

"DePape also later explained that by breaking Nancy’s kneecaps, she would then have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other members of Congress there were consequences to actions," an FBI agent said in an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint. "DePape also explained generally that he wanted to use Nancy to lure another individual to DePape."

DePape made online posts about QAnon conspiracy theories and racist beliefs and was known in Berkeley as a pro-nudity activist who had picketed naked at protests against local ordinances requiring people to be clothed in public, according to investigators. DePape's online entries included defending former President Donald Trump and claims that any journalists who denied Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election “should be dragged straight out into the street and shot.”

Scott said Pelosi, who suffered blunt force trauma to his head and body, was taken to the hospital for treatment. The Capitol Police said in a statement that Speaker Pelosi was in Washington with her protective detail at the time of the break-in.

Judge Northway set a bail hearing for Friday morning, where she will hear arguments to hold DePape without bail and set a preliminary hearing. That will be the first day DePape's public defender Adam Lipson sees police reports, Lipson told reporters.

Public defender Adam Lipson arrives out San Francisco Superior Court to speak to the press about his client David DePape. (Natalie Hanson / Courthouse News)

DePape is on a federal hold and a protective order that he avoid all contact with Nancy and Paul Pelosi anyway, Lipson told the press after the hearing. DePape's federal charges would normally take precedent, but he said those proceedings will be handled separately.

He said he is glad to hear Paul Pelosi is progressing well in recovery, and will next discuss with DePape whether he will release a personal statement on the case.

“We have very little information about this case,” Lipson said. “There’s been a lot of speculation regarding DePape’s vulnerability to misinformation, and that’s certainly something we’re going to delve into as his defense team.”

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