David DePape found guilty of attack on Paul Pelosi – News21USA

A jury convicted David DePape on federal crimes Thursday for breaking into Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and beating her husband with a hammer in an attack that raised fears of political violence ahead of the US midterm elections 2022.

The trial lasted four days and the jury reached its decision after deliberating for approximately eight hours. DePape, 43, faces the possibility of spending decades in prison.

His lawyers did not dispute the evidence against him, which included police body camera video of the attack on Paul Pelosi, 83, as well as Mr. DePape’s own confessions to police and on the witness stand. But they argued before the jury that DePape’s beating of Pelosi while he was on a mission to kidnap his wife (then speaker of the House and second in line to the presidency) did not constitute federal crimes.

They said DePape did not act because of Pelosi’s official duties as a member of Congress (a required element of the charges against her), but rather as part of a broader plot, fueled by online conspiracy theories, to take down a cabal of so-called liberal elites that he viewed as a threat to American freedom.

If the case was never, in the words of one of DePape’s lawyers, “a whodunit,” the trial laid bare the ugliness of American politics in a time of extreme polarization.

DePape, a reclusive figure who once lived under a tree in a park in Berkeley, California, became obsessed with right-wing conspiracy theories like Pizzagate and QAnon, and apparently adopted the dehumanizing language about Pelosi that conservative pundits and politicians had used during years.

After the attack, Republican commentators and elected officials promoted more conspiracy theories about the beating, raising questions about male prostitution or simply suggesting that official accounts of the attack did not tell the whole story. And some on the right mocked the beating of an octogenarian in his own home.

For example, at a campaign rally Saturday in New Hampshire, former President Donald J. Trump called Pelosi appeared like a “crazed lunatic” to a crowd of supporters and added: “What the hell was going on with your husband? Let’s not ask.”

In a statement issued shortly after the verdict was read in court, a spokesperson for Pelosi said: “The Pelosi family is very proud of their father, who demonstrated extraordinary composure and courage on the night of the attack a year ago and in the courtroom this week. Fortunately, Pelosi continues to make progress in her recovery.”

The attack, in the early hours of October 28, 2022, began when DePape burst through a back door of Pelosi’s residence in the exclusive Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. Inside, he discovered Pelosi asleep in her third-floor bedroom.

Standing in the bedroom door with a hammer in one hand and zip ties in the other, the attacker demanded to see Pelosi, who was in Washington at the time.

“I recognized that I was in grave danger,” Pelosi told jurors Monday, in her first public comments about the attack. And he added: “I tried to stay as calm as possible.”

Pelosi recounted how, with her life in danger, she was able to surreptitiously call 911 from her bathroom and convey that she was in danger without irritating DePape. When DePape said he would wait for Pelosi to return to California but that he was tired and needed to sleep, Pelosi suggested they go downstairs, hoping the police would be on their way.

“Why don’t we go down?” Pelosi recalled telling DePape. “And you can tie me up there and we can go to sleep.”

Shortly afterward, police arrived and found DePape and Pelosi standing in the lobby, each with a hand on the gavel. When the officers demanded they drop the gun, DePape grabbed it, lunged at Pelosi and hit him in the head. Prosecutors showed the court a photograph of Pelosi lying on the ground, with a pool of blood around him.

When defense attorneys began their case Tuesday, the first witness they called was DePape himself.

DePape said the catalyst for her online radicalization was Gamergate, an online campaign that began in 2014 as a backlash against female critics of the video game industry. He said she came to Gamergate years later, while living in a one-bedroom apartment attached to a garage in Richmond, California, that had a folding futon, a large chair for playing video games and no bathroom.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s former adviser, once tried to harness the Gamergate community to connect cadres of isolated, mostly white men to Trump’s political movement. He once told Bloomberg Businessweek: “They come in through Gamergate or whatever and then they turn to politics and Trump.”

DePape said Gamergate awakened him to the “truth” and from there he became a Trump supporter and skeptic of the mainstream media. And he came to believe in a vast conspiracy theory that liberal elites were promoting pedophilia and spreading lies about Trump.

He referred to “them” when referring to the conspiracy theory. When asked who “they” were, he responded: “The easiest answer is Wall Street, the super rich and whoever, but there is reason to believe this goes back to the Jesuits, the Vatican, secret societies and so on.”

Getting to the heart of their strategy, defense attorneys repeatedly asked DePape, who was tearful on the stand and apologized for hurting Pelosi, if he had sought out Pelosi because of his official duties in Congress, such as if he supported the Green New Deal. or had said something in a speech or during a meeting with his constituents. No, he said he every time.

He targeted Pelosi, he said, because of her role as leader of the Democrats and her media appearances in which she promoted “lies” about Trump. DePape said he had planned to wear an inflatable unicorn costume (he was wearing two costumes the night of the attack) while he questioned Pelosi.

When he arrived at Pelosi’s residence, DePape was carrying a sleeping bag and two backpacks filled with zip ties, a Nintendo Switch, body cameras, goji berries and $9,126 in cash, among other things, items he said he needed for his plans. He travels across the country to hunt down the other targets on his list.

Among them, he said on the witness stand, were Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California; actor Tom Hanks; Hunter Biden, the president’s son; and George Soros, the hedge fund billionaire.

“He didn’t go to that house because of anything she did as House speaker,” Angela Chuang, a federal public defender and one of Mr. DePape’s lawyers, told jurors in her closing argument. “He went there to eradicate the corruption of the ruling class.”

As for Pelosi, DePape said she never intended to hurt him and that the two had developed a “relationship” after the robbery and while DePape was in his room wielding a hammer.

“He was a very kind gentleman,” DePape said. “And I just gave him a squeeze on the shoulder to reassure him.”

Mr. DePape also faces trial in state court for several felonies, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse. The next hearing in that case is scheduled for Nov. 29. But now that DePape has been convicted in federal court, state prosecutors could seek a plea deal or drop the case entirely, especially if DePape receives a lengthy prison sentence.

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said in a statement Thursday: “We will consult with federal prosecutors and the victim in this case to determine what our next steps will be.”

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