Suspect in Pelosi husband attack charged with attempted kidnap and assault

Suspect in Pelosi husband attack charged with attempted kidnap and assault
The man who attacked US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, causing serious head injuries to the 82-year-old, has been charged with attempted kidnap and assault.
3 min read
David DePape attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer after he broke into the US House Speaker's house [source: Getty]

The man charged on Monday with attacking US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband intended to tie up the powerful politician and break her kneecaps with a hammer if she did not confess to Democratic "lies," the Justice Department said.

California man David DePape was charged in federal court in San Francisco with attempting to kidnap a US official and assaulting her family member over her actions in her job, charges that could bring up to 50 years in prison.

The Justice Department said DePape had tape, rope, zip ties and other materials with him when he broke into the couple's San Francisco mansion last week, but found only her husband Paul Pelosi, whom he attacked with a hammer.

In a court affidavit the FBI said DePape told them after his arrest he viewed Nancy Pelosi as responsible for lies told by her Democratic Party.

He intended to hold Pelosi - who is second in line to the US presidency after the vice president - hostage and talk to her, the affidavit said.

"If Nancy were to tell DePape the 'truth,' he would let her go, and if she 'lied,' he was going to break 'her kneecaps,'" the affidavit said.

DePape, 42, who lived in a garage in nearby Richmond, California and had posted right-wing conspiracy theories on social media, broke into the house early Friday. Nancy Pelosi was not in San Francisco at the time.

Awakened by the break-in, Paul Pelosi dialled the 911 emergency number and meanwhile conversed with DePape, seeking to keep the situation calm until police arrived.

But when police came on the scene the two struggled over a hammer and DePape smashed Paul Pelosi's head with it, leaving him unconscious, according to the affidavit.

Police subdued DePape and Pelosi, 82, was sent to a hospital where he underwent emergency surgery for a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands.

DePape later told authorities that Paul Pelosi was "taking the punishment instead" of his wife, given her absence.

He is expected to recover from the attack.

The assault and attempted kidnapping came amid heightened political tensions ahead of the November 8 midterm elections, with Democrats expected to lose their majority in the Pelosi-led House of Representatives.

On Friday, before details of the Pelosi attack were known, US security officials expressed concerns in a pre-election intelligence bulletin that disinformation could foment violent attacks by extremists.

DePape was not a known extremist, but had in recent months posted and reposted unfounded claims that elections had been rigged, that climate science and Covid vaccines were bogus, that the Holocaust was fake, and other conspiracy theories.

Inti Gonzalez, whose mother was DePape's partner for several years, said he had mental health issues and had recently turned to right-wing plot-mongering.

In the federal court, DePape was charged with one count of attempted kidnapping of a US official in relation to her official duties, and one count of assault of a US official's family member in retaliation for the official's actions.

The kidnapping charge brings up to 20 years in prison and the assault charge a maximum of 30 years in prison.

According to media reports, San Francisco city prosecutors planned to file local charges against DePape on Monday which could include attempted murder.