Federal prosecutors urge 40 years in prison after Pelosi attacker's 'assault on our democracy'

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 in December 2013 in Berkeley. (Michael Short / Associated Press)

Federal prosecutors are recommending a 40-year sentence for the man convicted of attempting to kidnap former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and assaulting her husband with a hammer after he broke into the couple’s San Francisco home in 2022.

In a sentencing memorandum filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, prosecutors said that David DePape has failed to take responsibility for his crimes and has not shown remorse. They also argued that his sentencing should include a terrorism enhancement.

Prosecutors referred to DePape's crimes as "an assault on our democracy and fundamental values."

"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," prosecutors wrote.

DePape’s attorneys, federal public defenders Jodi Linker and Angela Chuang, have requested a 14-year prison sentence, citing their client's "abusive, long-term relationship with a partner who exploited his innate vulnerabilities and immersed him in a world of extreme beliefs where reality is not reality."

"Her influence began at a formative and critical period in his life and extended far beyond the end of their relationship leaving him completely unmoored in the years leading up to the offense, when he was further radicalized through his obsessive consumption of media amplifying extreme beliefs," DePape's attorneys wrote in their sentencing memo.

They also argued DePape has shown remorse for his actions, citing his trial testimony "during which he explained that he felt 'really scared for [Mr. Pelosi’s] life.'"

Sentencing is scheduled for Friday.

During DePape's trial last year, assistant U.S. Attys. Laura Vartain Horn and Helen Gilbert laid out details of DePape’s "violent plan" on the night he traveled from his East Bay residence to the Pelosis’ Pacific Heights home in October 2022.

DePape broke into the couple's home around 2 a.m. on Oct. 28, planning to hold Pelosi hostage and break her kneecaps if she lied to him, prosecutors said in their memo. Pelosi wasn't home, but her husband, Paul, was and called 911.

When the police arrived, Pelosi opened the door, and DePape then violently hit Pelosi three times, twice on the head, before the police were able to subdue him, prosecutors said.

Read more: David DePape found guilty in federal court of trying to kidnap Nancy Pelosi, attacking her husband

In court, prosecutors showed jurors the graphic police body-camera video of DePape bludgeoning Pelosi, fracturing the then-82-year-old man’s skull and seriously injuring his right arm and left hand.

“This is the moment where Paul Pelosi ends up attacked in the dead of night in his own home, lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood,” Gilbert said in her closing argument as a still frame of the moment before the attack was displayed on courtroom screens.

Jurors heard portions of a police interview in which DePape said he considered Speaker Pelosi the Democrats’ “leader of the pack,” and said he would “break her kneecaps” if she didn’t admit to corruption and other unfounded claims of human trafficking and child abuse by public figures. He told the officer that Pelosi would have to wheel herself into Congress, where other lawmakers could see the “f— consequence to being the most evil f— people on the planet.”

DePape’s attorneys argued that their client was inspired by elaborate and baseless conspiracy theories that may have seemed “bogus” but were nonetheless his deeply held beliefs.

The Pelosis’ home was only the first stop in a cross-country plan to target other powerful people in America he believed were involved in QAnon-like conspiracy theories of criminal activity, Chuang said. His goal was to “root out the corruption of the ruling class, the cabal, to stop the molestation of children and expose the truth to everyone.”

The jury spent a day deliberating the two federal charges before finding DePape guilty of attempted kidnapping of a federal officer or employee and assault on the immediate family member of a federal official.

In letters to the judge, DePape's mother, Shirley Jean Lawrence, asked him to have mercy on her son, stating that he'd "messed up big time."

"How did it come to this. This is not the child that I raised. This is not my David," she wrote. "I love my son dearly and in my heart I know who he really is ... he’s not a monster."

Times staff writer Hannah Wiley contributed to this report.

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.