SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The suspect in the assault of Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, was formally charged with assault and attempted kidnapping in federal court Monday.
David DePape, 42, of Richmond, Calif., was arrested by the San Francisco Police Department early Friday, according to a press release from the office of United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds of the Northern District of California.
“The complaint charges DePape with one count of assault of an immediate family member of a United States official with the intent to retaliate against the official on account of the performance of official duties, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison,” the press release states. “DePape is also charged with one count of attempted kidnapping of a United States official on account of the performance of official duties, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.”
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and attached is an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Stephanie Minor.
“According to the complaint, minutes after the 911 call, two police officers responded to the Pelosi residence where they encountered Paul Pelosi and DePape struggling over a hammer,” the press release continues. “Officers told the men to drop the hammer, and DePape allegedly gained control of the hammer and swung it, striking Pelosi in the head. Officers immediately restrained DePape, while Pelosi appeared to be unconscious on the ground. As set forth in the complaint, once DePape was restrained, officers secured a roll of tape, white rope, a second hammer, a pair of rubber and cloth gloves, and zip ties from the crime scene, where officers also observed a broken glass door to the back porch.”
DePape told police of his plans to hold Speaker Pelosi hostage to “talk to her” and viewed her “as the “leader of the pack” of lies told by the Democratic Party, the eight-page complaint says.
“If she were to tell DePape the ‘truth,’ he would let her go and if she ’lied,’ he was going to break “her kneecaps,” the complaint alleges.
“By breaking Nancy’s kneecaps, she would then have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other members of Congress there were consequences to actions,” it says.
The announcement of the federal charges came as San Francisco’s district attorney was set to announce state criminal charges as well.
It was not immediately clear whether DePape had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. Family described DePape as estranged, and he was known by some in San Francisco as a pro-nudity activist who appeared to embrace a range of conspiracy theories.
The federal complaint said he has lived for the past two years in a garage at a residence in Richmond, California.
Paul Pelosi remains hospitalized in San Francisco after undergoing surgery for a fractured skull and other injuries. Speaker Pelosi, who was in Washington, D.C., at the time of the attack, returned swiftly to California. Unlike presidents, congressional leaders have security protection for themselves, but not their families.
In the ambulance to the hospital, Paul Pelosi told police he had never seen DePape before, the complaint said.
The attack was an unsettling echo of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, when rioters trying to overturn Joe Biden’s election defeat of Donald Trump stormed the halls eerily calling “Where’s Nancy?” The zip ties were another similarity to Jan. 6 when rioters were seen with the ties in the Capitol.
San Francisco’s district attorney, Brooke Jenkins, strongly rejected conspiracy theories about the attack, confirming the assailant was targeting the Democratic leader when he broke into the couple’s home.
“At the time that the suspect had entered the Pelosi home that he was in fact, looking for Ms. Pelosi,” Jenkins told reporters late Sunday in San Francisco.
“We have nothing to suggest that these two men knew each other prior to this incident,” she said.
The district attorney’s remarks came as the attack on the husband of the House speaker was being mocked and dismissed in conservative, far-right social media, even among some Republican leaders. San Francisco’s police chief has also said the attack was targeted at Nancy Pelosi.
Elon Musk over the weekend tweeted, then deleted, a fringe website’s far-flung conspiracy theories to his millions of followers, as his purchase of Twitter has raised concerns that the social media platform would no longer seek to limit misinformation and hate speech.
In the toxic political climate, a week before the midterm elections, tensions are high with record security threats against lawmakers and other officials.
The incident sparked fresh security concerns for lawmakers and other elected officials before the midterms.
With nearly 10,000 threats against members of Congress in the last year, U.S. Capitol Police have advised lawmakers to take precautions. Chief Tom Manger, who leads the U.S. Capitol Police, has said the threat from lone-wolf attackers has been growing and the most significant threat the force is facing is the historically high number of threats against lawmakers, thousands more than just a few years before.
The beating of the speaker’s husband follows other attacks and threats. This summer, a man carrying a gun, a knife and zip ties was arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland after threatening to kill the justice. In 2017, Republican Rep. Steve Scalise was seriously injured when a Bernie Sanders supporter opened fire on Republicans at a congressional baseball game practice.
Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., was among those making light of the attack on Paul Pelosi, tweeting out a joke about a Halloween costume of the incident.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.