The man accused of breaking into the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and attacking her 82-year-old husband, Paul, with a hammer was arraigned Tuesday on numerous charges, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment of an elder.
Appearing in a San Francisco courtroom for the first time since the attack, the suspect, David DePape, entered a plea of not guilty. He remains in the custody of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and faces 13 years to life in prison if convicted of the state charges.
DePape’s public defender, Adam Lipson, told reporters after the arraignment that he wished Paul Pelosi well, adding that he currently has “very little information about the case.”
“There’s been a lot of speculation, a lot of rumor, based on the nature of this case,” Lipson said. “But as of now, I haven’t even seen the police report. I met my client last night.”
Separately, on Monday, the Justice Department charged DePape with the attempted kidnapping of a federal officer and an assault on the immediate family member of a federal officer. He faces a maximum of 50 years in federal prison if he is convicted of the federal charges.
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, DePape was carrying a bag with zip ties and duct tape when he broke into the home and accosted Paul Pelosi, repeatedly asking, “Where is Nancy?”
An FBI special agent stated that during DePape's interview with police, he claimed his plan had been to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage and talk to her. He said that if she had told the truth, he intended to let her go, but that if she had lied, he would have broken her kneecaps. DePape said his assumption was that she would lie to him, according to the affidavit.
DePape allegedly told authorities he viewed her as “the leader of the pack” of lies told by the Democratic Party.
“DePape also later explained that 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,” the complaint states.
After Paul Pelosi called 911, DePape allegedly said he did not leave “because, much like the American Founding Fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender.” Police claim he reiterated this sentiment elsewhere in the interview.
According to the complaint, DePape said he was planning on restraining Paul Pelosi with zip ties. When the police arrived, Pelosi ran to the door and opened it. The two wrestled over the hammer DePape had brought into the residence, and DePape allegedly struck Pelosi with it.
Paul Pelosi suffered a fractured skull and underwent surgery Friday. He remains in the ICU but is expected to make a full recovery.
In a statement released Monday evening, Nancy Pelosi said her husband was "making steady progress" in his recovery.
“Since the horrific attack on Paul early Friday, we have been deluged with thousands of messages conveying concern, prayers and warm wishes. We are most grateful," she said in her statement. “Thanks to the excellent trauma care medical team at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, Paul is making steady progress on what will be a long recovery process."
Lawmakers in both parties have been subjected to a rise in threats and intimidation amid the violent political rhetoric that has led to in-person confrontations since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Nancy Pelosi has been featured prominently in Republican ads and right-wing media attacks for years, which have increased in the run-up to the midterm elections. Last year, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., commented that he felt it would "be hard not to hit” Pelosi with the speaker’s gavel if he took over the position in 2023. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has added "likes" to social media posts calling for Pelosi's execution.
In a statement released Tuesday, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said the attack on Paul Pelosi is "an alarming reminder of the dangerous threats elected officials and public figures face during today’s contentious political climate."
"With the increasing number of threats against elected officials, from city council members to federal judges, our work to further our efforts to protect the Members of Congress becomes increasingly urgent," Manger said. "We believe today’s political climate calls for more resources to provide additional layers of physical security for members of Congress. This plan would include an emphasis on adding redundancies to the measures that are already in place for congressional leadership."
He added: "Hopefully, you can understand that we cannot disclose the details about these improvements, because our country cannot afford to make it easier for any potential bad actors."
At a press conference Monday evening, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins described the attack as "politically motivated" and implored the public to "to turn down the volume of our political rhetoric."
"It's very sad to see that we are once again at a point in history where people believe that it is OK to express their political sentiments through violence," Jenkins said. "It really demonstrates that we have to calm things down. We have to decide that we are going to be more respectful as an American society, that it is OK to disagree. But it certainly is something that has unnerved us all.”