Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

State trial begins for Paul Pelosi attacker

DePape faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole in the state case.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — During the opening arguments in David DePape’s state trial in California Wednesday, prosecutors showed the jury graphic images of the aftermath of the defendant's hammer attack on Paul Pelosi.

DePape broke into the Pelosi home in October 2022 in an attempt to kidnap former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Assistant District Attorney Sean Connolly showed the jurors a picture of blood pooled around Paul Pelosi’s head, as well as a photo of a large scar across the top of Pelosi's scalp.

“His skull was crushed. Literally,” Connolly told the jury, before detailing the arduous rehab and numerous surgeries that Pelosi experienced after the attack.

“The top of the skull was literally broken. Doctors had to gather the skull material and put it back,” Connolly said.

Later, prosecutors played police body camera footage of the attack. In the footage, police arrive at the Pelosi residence and knock on the front door. Paul Pelosi answers the door. He and DePape appear nonchalant and smiling; each have one hand on a hammer. When police tell DePape to drop the hammer, he refuses before striking Pelosi multiple times with the weapon. Police then tackle DePape and arrest him.

Pelosi falls to the floor in a pool of blood; police body cameras capture the sounds of gurgled, pained breathing. The two police officers that responded to the Pelosi residence that night said the noises were “agonal breathing,” a term for a person's abnormal breathing pattern when they are struggling to breathe due to a lack of oxygen

After he was arrested, officers and investigators learned of DePape’s larger plan: to go around the country, kidnapping politicians and exposing corruption.

Connolly told the jury that DePape’s defense team will likely bring up DePape’s mental health as an excuse for his actions, but that they should ignore it and hold him accountable for his actions.

“A mental health diagnosis is not license to commit these kinds of crimes,” Connolly said, before adding that DePape admitted to investigators several times that he knew what he was doing.

DePape is facing state charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse, among others charges. He has pleaded not guilty. He was already found guilty of attempting to kidnap a federal official and assaulting the family member of a federal official in a brief November trial in San Francisco federal court. The judge in that case sentenced DePape to 30 years in prison Tuesday morning.

If the jury finds DePape guilty, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Adam Lipson, DePape’s public defender, said that DePape was diagnosed with a schizoid personality disorder, which can cause sufferers to experience delusions and fantastical thinking.

“His diagnosis and his deficits make him prone to rash, unpredictable behavior,” Lipson said.

DePape, Lipson said, believed that the government was corrupt, taking away Americans’ rights and even responsible for raping children.

“The government was either complicit, or covering it up, or turning a blind eye to it. He felt he had to do something,” Lipson said.

Lipson said DePape intended to tie up Nancy Pelosi while he wore a unicorn costume, and stream the interview on the internet. Lipson said DePape wanted the former speaker to admit to corruption or else he would hurt her.

In addition to Pelosi, DePape intended to expose George Soros, California Governor Gavin Newsom, actor Tom Hanks, and numerous others he believed were involved in child molestation and other crimes.

“That was his mental state. That was his plan,” Lipson told the jury. “His ideas might seem ridiculous or crazy to you ... But he absolutely believed that’s what was going on in this country.”

Lipson said when police arrived at the door, DePape knew his plan was foiled.

“When his plan goes bust before it even begins, he lashes out erratically and violently and does damage,” Lipson said.

Still, Lipson said, some of the charges should not stick against DePape, who never intended to kill Paul Pelosi or anyone else, or to hold him for ransom, and said that other charges had elements that did not stick as well.

He told the jurors to put aside their emotions and be critical of the evidence.

Later in the afternoon, prosecutors played the 911 call that Paul Pelosi made the night of the attack.

During the call, Pelosi can be heard telling the dispatcher that there’s an unknown man in his home. He says the man “came into the house and wants to wait for my wife to get home.”

He gives the dispatcher his name and address. DePape can be heard in the background. He identifies himself as “David,” and said he was a “friend” of the Pelosis.

Paul eventually hangs up, telling the dispatcher that DePape told him to “get the hell off of the phone.”

Testimony continues Thursday. Paul Pelosi is expected to testify on Friday.

Categories / Criminal, Government, Trials

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.

Loading...