The trial for David Wayne DePape, accused of using a claw hammer to attack and attempt to kidnap Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, began in a San Francisco courtroom Thursday morning.
During opening statements for his federal trial in the Northern District of California, the 43-year-old’s attorney noted several bizarre conspiracy theories she insists he believes.
Those ideas included his belief in a cabal of elites – among its ranks a disparate group including Tom Hanks, George Soros, and Gov. Gavin Newsom – working to sow ruin into the fabric of American society. But, defense attorney Jodi Linker argued that chief among these fanciful notions was her client’s intent to use the former House speaker as bait for his real target — a college professor and so-called “pedo activist.”
Federal prosecutors argued otherwise.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Vartain Horn began the state’s case by dramatically holding up the hammer – in a Ziplog bag, according to a courtroom report by NBC News correspondent Dana Griffin. What DePape aimed to do, the prosecutor argued, was teach Nancy Pelosi “a lesson.”
“[The] defendant considered Nancy Pelosi evil,” Horn said. “He planned to kidnap her, to hold her hostage, to break her kneecaps.”
That recitation of the facts more or less aligns with previous filings in the case – alleging that DePape admitted he would have broken Nancy Pelosi’s kneecaps if he thought she was lying to him.
On Oct. 28, 2022, DePape allegedly used the hammer to shatter glass at the Pelosi residence, the prosecutor explained. Inside their San Francisco home, Paul Pelosi was violently assaulted, police noted then. The man’s attacker is said to have repeatedly shouted, “Where’s Nancy?! Where’s Nancy?!”
Law enforcement arrived to find the suspect and the victim struggling over control of the hammer, body-worn camera footage shows. A police officer tells him to drop the hammer, but DePape says he will not. After winning the struggle for the tool, he can be seen striking Paul Pelosi in the head before he was tackled by officers and arrested.
DePape also reportedly had zip ties at the time of the break-in, which occurred when Nancy Pelosi was traveling. The man’s motive is likely the main point of contention during the trial.
On Thursday, Linker said the defense would not contest much of the government’s factual evidence. Instead, she said, the defense would focus on DePape’s motive for the violence.
“The why matters,” the defense attorney said, arguing Nancy Pelosi was not the ultimate target. Instead, Linker argued, her client was after an associate professor who teaches at the University of Michigan.
The professor has only previously been referred to as “target-1” in the federal indictment. But, according to DePape, this professor was a “pedo activist” who was responsible for harming children.
While admitting the story was hard to believe, Linker said DePape believes it. Additionally, the defense attorney accepted that her client engaged in the specific violent acts in question. The defense attorney insisted, however, that her client did not commit the specific crimes he’s been charged with by federal prosecutors – because he did not have the necessary intent to do so.
Paul Pelosi suffered a fractured skull and other injuries as a result of the break-in. He is expected to testify in his assailant’s trial.
DePape stands accused of one federal count each of assaulting an immediate family member of a federal official and attempted kidnapping of a federal official. He also faces attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, burglary, and several other felony charges in California state court.
Direct testimony in the case began with several members of local law enforcement testifying about the early morning showdown and DePape’s interviews with investigators.
Later, jurors heard snippets of audio where the defendant allegedly explained his actions in important-sounding terms.
“If you stop me from going after evil, you will take the punishment instead,” the man on the recording says. With the s––– that’s happening in Washington, D.C., I’m not going to just stand here … I will go through him if I have to.”
DePape is a Canadian national who was without proper documentation to be in the United States at the time of the attack, The New York Times reported.
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