David DePape trial: Defense lays out right-wing conspiracy theories leading to Paul Pelosi attack

Opening statements began Thursday in the federal trial of David DePape, accused in the October 2022 hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, with the defense attorney laying out the outlandish conspiracy theories that drove DePape to seek out then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the couple’s Pacific Heights home in San Francisco.  

ALSO READ: David DePape is on trial, accused of attacking Paul Pelosi in his home. Here’s what to know.

Defense attorney Jodi Linker said the defense team would not dispute the government‘s video evidence of the attack that fractured Paul Pelosi’s skull and DePape’s other actions that night, but told jurors they would learn it was the result of a misguided crusade against what he perceived as a corrupt ruling class that needed to be taken down.

“Bizarre, misguided and unthoughtful”

Linker’s opening remarks referenced a litany of right-wing and QAnon-inspired beliefs about a sinister cabal of government officials and elites – Pelosi, Congressman Adam Schiff, George Soros, Hunter Biden, Tom Hanks, Gov. Gavin Newsom – using wealth and power to spread lies and send the country into ruin. 

“Members of the jury, many of us do not believe any of that,” said Linker. “But the evidence in this trial will show that Mr. DePape believes all these things … with every ounce of his being.”

DePape has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assault on an immediate family member of a federal official. 

Still from police bodycam video released by San Francisco Superior Court showing suspect David DePape and Paul Pelosi appearing to hold a hammer.

San Francisco Superior Court

“At the end of this trial, you will know that the reason he acted had nothing to do with Nancy Pelosi [and her] official duties as a member of Congress,” said Linker. “The reason, the why of all of this, had everything to do with the ruling class engaged in corruption. The media spreading lies and protecting children. [DePape] went to the Pelosi home to effectuate his plan as bizarre, misguided and unthoughtful as it was.

ALSO READ: Gov. Gavin Newsom accuses Fox News of “creating a culture” that led to attack on Paul Pelosi

Prosecution’s case

Before Linker’s statements, prosecutors began their opening statements by laying out some of the video and photographic evidence of the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, including a graphic image of his head injuries as he lay in a pool of blood on the floor. Federal prosecutor Laura Vartain Horn said the government would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that DePape intended to kidnap and hold Nancy Pelosi hostage and attacked Paul Pelosi after warning him “you stop me from going after evil, you will take the punishment instead.”

David DePape
Paul Pelosi assault suspect David DePape.

California DMV

Nancy Pelosi was in Washington, DC at the time of the attack. Police arrived at the home after Paul Pelosi managed to call 911 after being woken up in his bed by DePape, asking “Where’s Nancy?”

Investigators said DePape told them he planned to “break her kneecaps” if Nancy Pelosi lied to him about the whereabouts of other people he was targeting.

Among those expected to testify is the person referred to in court papers as “Target 1.” Prosecutors say DePape planned to kidnap Nancy Pelosi to get to Target 1, now identified as Bay Area scholar Dr. Gayle Rubin, a leading academic in feminist theory and queer studies.

“Because [DePape] believes she is promoting child molestation,” said Linker. “She is going to say this is all completely false, that she believes no such things. But David believes it.”

ALSO READ: News orgs file court motion seeking access to Pelosi attack evidence

Jurors for the federal trial were sworn in Monday. If convicted DePape could face life in prison. 

DePape also faces separate state charges including attempted murder, residential burglary, and threats to a public official among other charges which could carry a 13 years-to-life sentence. He has also pleaded not guilty to those charges.  

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