David DePape: Paul Pelosi hammer suspect was into conspiracies

Paul and Nancy Pelosi pose for a photo at an awards show in February 2023
Nancy and Paul Pelosi

The man accused of breaking into US politician Nancy Pelosi's home and attacking her husband with a hammer was motivated by conspiracy theories, his lawyer has said as his trial begins.

David DePape believed Mrs Pelosi was part of a plot to "manipulate the country" and "steal votes from Donald Trump", a court in San Francisco heard.

He faces two federal charges, including attempted kidnapping of a federal official.

Mr DePape, 43, has pleaded not guilty.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison for the attempted kidnapping charge and 30 years in prison for assault on a federal official's family member.

After the attack, Paul Pelosi spent six days in hospital with a fractured skull.

During opening arguments on Thursday, Mr DePape's defence conceded that their client attacked Mr Pelosi in his quest to find the California congresswoman.

But they said his interest in Mrs Pelosi was not due to her political status.

"The reason he acted had nothing to do with Nancy Pelosi [and her] official duties as a member of Congress," defence attorney Jodi Linker told the court.

Instead, Ms Linker said he was driven by right-wing conspiracies that blame the country's demise on corrupt elites who use their status to spread lies, including facilitating the sexual abuse of children.

"Members of the jury, many of us do not believe any of that," Ms Linker said. "But the evidence in this trial will show that Mr DePape believes all these things… with every ounce of his being."

Prosecutors argued that Mr DePape was calculated and intended to kidnap Mrs Pelosi and hold her hostage in his "plan of violence".

They showed jurors the hammer used that night and pictures of Mr Pelosi in the immediate aftermath of the attack, laying in a pool of blood.

The first witnesses called by prosecutors included three police officers who responded to the emergency call, a crime scene investigator and a police lieutenant who interviewed Mr DePape.

Mr Pelosi, 83, also suffered arm and hand injuries in the attack and is expected to testify from the stand next week.

According to court documents, on 28 October 2022, Mr DePape broke into the Pelosi's San Francisco home using a hammer and asked for Mrs Pelosi, who was not there at the time.

Mr Pelosi then called the police who arrived and found the pair jointly gripping a hammer.

Officers asked Mr DePape to drop the weapon, to which he replied "ummm nope", before he "swung the hammer abruptly and forcefully at Mr Pelosi", according to court documents.

Body camera footage later released showed the encounter between Mr DePape, Mr Pelosi and police.

Mr DePape told police at the scene that he was sick of the "lies coming out of Washington DC".

He told police in an interview after his arrest he had a "target list" that included Mrs Pelosi, and that he planned to hold her hostage and break "her kneecaps" if she did not tell the "truth".

At the time of the attack, Mrs Pelosi was Speaker of the House of Representatives and second in line to the presidency.

The trial resumes on Monday.

In addition to federal charges, Mr DePape faces state charges, including attempted murder, residential burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, threats to a public official and others that carry potential penalties of 13 years to life in prison.

Mr DePape has also pleaded not guilty to those charges.