SAN FRANCISCO — The man accused of breaking into the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and attacking her husband with a hammer faces the potential prospect of decades in prison regardless of what happens with the federal charges lodged against him Monday.
Prosecutors in San Francisco added half a dozen serious state felonies, including attempted murder, to the federal charges filed against David DePape – a 42-year-old promoter of fringe far-right ideas who told police he broke into the Pelosi home in the middle of the night with the intention of breaking the kneecaps of the speaker.
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said the state case would move on a parallel track as the federal charges, which include attempting to kidnap the House speaker and assaulting a relative of a federal official.
“It’s something that we have to take very seriously,” Jenkins said.
DePape faces 13 years to life in prison on the state charges, the DA told reporters.
The accused, who lived in a rented garage across the Bay in Richmond, is expected to be arraigned Tuesday in San Francisco on the state charges, which include residential burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse and false imprisonment of an elderly person – the 82-year-old Paul Pelosi, who police say was awoken and forced downstairs during the attack.
Both Jenkins and federal authorities said it was clear DePape had entered the home wishing to hurt the House speaker, who was in Washington at the time of the attack.
The attempted murder charge alone carries a significant risk of prison for DePape, said Adrian Carpenter-McKinney, a professor at the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law and a former deputy legal affairs secretary under former Gov. Jerry Brown.
“Just that charge alone could send him to prison for the rest of his life,” Carpenter-McKinney said.
But, she noted, it also may be hard to prove that DePape was intending to kill the 82-year-old Pelosi as they wrestled with the assailant’s hammer in the entryway of the couple’s Pacific Heights home as two responding police officers arrived at the scene before dawn Friday. “To show that the intention was to actually kill someone, those are usually very difficult charges,” she said.
The other state charges will be more straightforward, legal experts said, based on what has come out so far in a detailed affidavit submitted to the federal court.
“The assault is pretty darned clear – I mean, they hit him with a hammer,” said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Marymount University Law Professor and former federal prosecutor.
It is clear that more facts will emerge as prosecutors build their case, Levenson said, noting the current charges function as “placeholders” to keep DePape in custody. They also serve the function of “reassuring the public that this is being taken as seriously as it should,” she said.
DePape, who does not yet have legal representation, spoke to authorities following the attack according to a federal affidavit, describing his intentions to break the kneecaps of Nancy Pelosi unless she told “the truth.” Authorities also witnessed DePape hitting Paul Pelosi in the head with a hammer and knocking him unconscious, according to the federal filings.
Prosecutors planned to file a motion to detain DePape without bail, based on what are “obvious and severe public safety risks,” Jenkins said.
“He certainly did enact what we believe is an attempted murder,” she told reporters.
The district attorney Jenkins said no security was present at the time the intruder broke through a glass door. and made his way up to Pelosi’s bedroom, where he was sleeping in a “loose-fitting pajama shirt and boxer shorts.”
She said Pelosi initially tried to make his way to a house elevator, which has a phone, to call the police, but DePape blocked him. It was after that he asked to go to the bathroom, where he was able to call 911 from a cell phone that had been charging there.
The district attorney included specific details – noting, for example, that Pelosi and his assailant were the only ones in the home at the time — in what appeared to be an effort to counterattack false claims being spread on social media by Republican opponents of the speaker, including Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana and Donald Trump Jr., the son of the former president.
All the evidence, she said, suggests a political motive. “It’s very sad to see that we are once again at a point in history where people believe that it’s okay to express their political sentiments with violence,” Jenkins said.
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