David DePape sentenced to 30 years in attempted Nancy Pelosi kidnapping, hammer attack on husband

FILE - David DePape is shown in Berkeley, Calif., on Dec. 13, 2013. DePape, who allegedly broke into U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home and beat her 82-year-old husband in October 2022 pleaded not guilty Wednesday, Dec. 28, to six charges, including attempted murder, prosecutors said. (Michael Short/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, File)
David DePape was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for the attempted kidnapping of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the brutal hammer attack on her husband in their Pacific Heights home. (Michael Short / Associated Press)

A federal judge on Friday sentenced David DePape to 30 years in prison, six months after a jury found him guilty of attempting to kidnap former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and using a hammer to bludgeon her husband in a bloody October 2022 assault.

Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley delivered her decision during a hearing at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, reprimanding DePape at length and saying she believed he continued to pose a danger to the public and "all Americans."

"He broke into the home of that public official, he broke into that private space of home and violently attacked a public official's spouse," Scott Corley said. "What that means and why this now is so harmful to everyone in the country and the future, is that when someone is considering now whether they want to go into public service, they have to think not only am I willing to take that risk myself, but am I willing to risk my spouse, my children, my grandchildren."

DePape, dressed in an orange jail sweatsuit and wearing ankle restraints, did not outwardly react as his sentence was read.

The sentencing caps a federal trial that captivated the nation and raised chilling questions about the safety of public officials amid heightened political extremism and the proliferation of online venues that give traction to baseless fanatical conspiracy theories.

In letters to the judge that their daughter, Christine Pelosi, read in court, both Nancy and Paul Pelosi asked the judge to impose lengthy sentences.

In her letter, Nancy Pelosi said her husband continues to suffer physically and emotionally from the attack, and that the violent incident "has had a devastating effect on three generations of our family."

"It is therefore necessary that the guilty party's sentence be very long as a punishment for the attack and the injuries Paul continues to suffer — and as a deterrent to others considering violence against public officials," the former speaker wrote.

Paul Pelosi said his life "has been irrevocably changed," and that he hasn't fully recovered. He noted that a blood stain on the front entryway and the metal plate now embedded in his head serve as enduring reminders of the assault.

Federal prosecutors had requested a 40-year federal prison term with a terrorism enhancement, arguing that DePape has demonstrated no remorse and that a tough sentence would serve as a deterrent to other would-be assailants motivated by ideological extremism.

"At a time when extremism has led to attacks on public and elected officials, this case presents a moment to speak to others harboring ideologically motivated violent dreams and plans," Assistant U.S. Attys. Helen Gilbert and Laura Vartain Horn wrote in a May 10 filing.

DePape faced a combined 50 years in federal prison: 30 years on the assault charge and 20 years for the attempted kidnapping. Scott Corley sentenced him to the maximum term on both counts, but to be served concurrently for a total of 30 years. He will get credit for the roughly 18 months he has spent in state custody.

DePape, 44, was accused of traveling from his Richmond residence to the Pelosis' Pacific Heights home in the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 2022, with plans to hold the lawmaker hostage and interrogate her regarding unfounded claims fueled by far-right conspiracy theorists of corruption, human trafficking and child abuse by Democrats and other public figures.

DePape broke into the home, but instead of finding Nancy Pelosi, who was in Washington at the time, he stumbled across the bedroom where her husband was sleeping.

“The door opened and a very large man came in, with a hammer in one hand and some ties in the other hand,” Paul Pelosi testified. “And he said, ‘Where’s Nancy?’ And I think that’s what woke me up.”

He was able to get to his cellphone and dial 911. When the police arrived, the two men were struggling over DePape's hammer. The prosecutors showed jurors graphic police body-camera video of DePape bludgeoning Paul Pelosi, then 82, fracturing his skull and seriously injuring his right arm and left hand.

Read more: Paul Pelosi testifies that he knew he was in 'serious danger' before hammer attack

Still-pending state charges accuse DePape of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, burglary and threats to a public official and her family. In contrast, the federal trial centered on whether DePape's actions that morning were indelibly tied to Speaker Pelosi's official duties in Congress.

In making their case, federal prosecutors provided jurors a detailed review of DePape’s online purchases and search history to demonstrate how he spent months preparing for the attack. Jurors heard portions of a police interview in which DePape said he considered Speaker Pelosi the Democrats’ "leader of the pack,” and that he would "break her kneecaps” if she didn’t admit to corruption and other claims of human trafficking and child abuse.

DePape's federal public defenders, Jodi Linker and Angela Chuang, had urged the judge to consider a more lenient 14-year sentence, arguing their client suffers from mental health issues and trauma from an abusive relationship with Gypsy Taub, his former romantic partner and the mother of his children.

Linker and Chuang never disputed that their client committed the violence. They instead tried to convince the jury that DePape was motivated by elaborate conspiracy theories that were nonetheless his deeply held beliefs.

Read more: Man charged in Paul Pelosi attack details descent into conspiracy theories during federal trial

They referenced support letters from family and friends describing the crimes as "completely out of character."

"David was never violent when he was young, and I am sorry that this has happened," DePape's stepfather, Gene DePape, wrote in a statement to The Times. "I am very sorry to Paul and Nancy."

The attorneys based much of their request for leniency on the influence of Taub, a Bay Area nudism activist who recently served time in state prison for trying to abduct a 14-year-old boy in Berkeley. They maintained Taub isolated DePape from his family and "immersed him in a world of extreme beliefs where reality is not reality."

"His long-term relationship with his ex-partner, Gypsy Taub, inflicted immeasurable harm to his mental state and what little support network he had in the form of his family," DePape's attorneys wrote in a May 10 sentencing memo.

A man grasps the hand of a bride wearing only a head veil at a nude wedding.
David DePape with Gypsy Taub at her nude wedding on the steps of San Francisco City Hall in 2013. (San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Chuang reiterated that argument during the sentencing hearing, saying DePape was "gaslit, abused and he was very intentionally cut off from his family," while Taub watched quietly from a court bench.

In a recorded audio statement she sent The Times this week, Taub dismissed the attorneys' allegations of abuse, saying: "I love David. I will always love him, regardless of what he does or says."

"He's an incredibly beautiful human being. But he's very broken," Taub said.

During an interview with The Times before DePape's trial in her cluttered, eclectic Berkeley home, Taub espoused a number of conspiracy theories, using phrasing nearly identical to what DePape shared in his testimony, including her belief that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were really "an inside job" and that government has been corrupted by satanic cults that prey on children.

At the time, she was adamant DePape had been falsely accused in the Pelosi attack, describing him as sweet and gentle. He was such a nice person, she said, that even after she married another man, she allowed DePape to keep living in her home and supported him financially.

In one video Taub shared from more than a decade ago, she and DePape are nude, discussing his recent experience with psychedelics at a Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

"What is your dream for the planet?" Taub asked.

"I'd really like there to be peace," he responded.

"And if the whole world could hear you right now, what would be your message to the world?" she asked.

"God is love. God is loving," he said. "And this is an illusion."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.