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The man accused of attacking Nancy Pelosi’s husband says he wanted to end corruption

David DePape spoke at his federal trial about how his political leanings went from leftist to right-wing after reading a comment on a YouTube video about former President Donald Trump

David DePape
A screenshot from a police body camera video shows David DePape lifting a hammer to strike Paul Pelosi, the husband of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in the couple’s house on October 28, 2022, in San Francisco, California.SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY (via REUTERS)

The man accused of attacking former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer last year told jurors at his federal trial Tuesday how he went to the Pelosis’ San Francisco home as part of a bigger plan to end corruption in the United States.

David DePape spoke for more than an hour, often getting emotional and crying about how his political leanings went from leftist to right-wing after reading a comment on a YouTube video about former President Donald Trump. He said he went to the Pelosis’ home to talk to Pelosi about Russian involvement in the 2016 election, and that he planned to wear an inflatable unicorn costume and upload his interrogation of her online.

Prosecutors say DePape bludgeoned Paul Pelosi in the early hours of Oct. 28, 2022, just days before the midterm elections, and that he had rope and zip ties with him.

DePape has pleaded not guilty to attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assault on the immediate family member of a federal official with intent to retaliate against the official for performance of their duties. He did not deny attacking Paul Pelosi while testifying Tuesday. His attorneys argue the charges do not fit because they say he was not seeking to go after Nancy Pelosi because of her official duties as a member of Congress.

DePape testified that he felt really bad for Paul Pelosi after hearing testimony from a neurosurgeon who operated on him after the attack. “He was never my target and I’m sorry that he got hurt,” he said. “I reacted because my plan was basically ruined,” he said when asked why he hit Pelosi.

Defense attorney Jodi Linker told jurors last week that DePape believed he was taking action to stop government corruption, the erosion of freedom in the United States, and the abuse of children by politicians and actors.

DePape testified that his plan was to get Nancy Pelosi and other targets to admit to their corruption and eventually get President Joe Biden to pardon them all. “It’s just easier giving them a pardon so we can move forward as a country,” he said crying.

Paul Pelosi testified Monday, recounting the attack publicly for the first time. “It was a tremendous sense of shock to recognize that somebody had broken into the house and looking at him and looking at the hammer and the ties, I recognized that I was in serious danger, so I tried to stay as calm as possible,” he told jurors.

Pelosi recalled being awakened by a man bursting into the bedroom door asking, “Where’s Nancy?” He said that when he responded that his wife was in Washington, DePape said he would tie him up while they waited for her.

He testified that he was eventually able to call police from his cellphone and that DePape hit him with a hammer when officers arrived.

Earlier, prosecutors played police body camera footage showing Pelosi facedown on the floor as paramedics help him. One holds a white towel against Pelosi’s head as another puts a neck and head brace on him before several first responders help him onto a stretcher chair. Pelosi’s face and hands are covered in blood. He later underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and injuries to his right arm and hands.

If convicted, DePape faces life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty to charges in state court of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary and other felonies. A state trial has not been scheduled.

After his arrest, DePape, 43, allegedly told a San Francisco detective that he wanted to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage. He said if she told him the truth, he would let her go and if she lied, he was going to “break her kneecaps” to show other members of Congress there were “consequences to actions,” according to prosecutors.

Defense attorneys have listed four other possible witnesses: Daniel Bernal, Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco chief of staff; extremism and antisemitism researcher Elizabeth Yates; federal public defender Catherine Goulet; and one unidentified witness.

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