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Judge cites error, will reopen sentencing hearing for man who attacked Nancy Pelosi's husband

Paul Pelosi, right, fights for control of a hammer with his assailant David DePape during a brutal attack. (San Francisco Police Department) Paul Pelosi, right, fights for control of a hammer with his assailant David DePape during a brutal attack. (San Francisco Police Department)
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SAN FRANCISCO -

A federal judge will reopen the sentencing hearing for the man who broke into Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco home and bludgeoned her husband with a hammer after the judge failed to allow him to speak during his court appearance last week.

On Friday, District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley sentenced David DePape to 20 years for attempting to kidnap Nancy Pelosi and 30 years for the Oct. 28, 2022 assault on Paul Pelosi, the maximum for both counts. The sentences would run simultaneously. DePape also was given credit for the 18 months he has been in custody.

But in a court filing over the weekend, Corley said that it was a “clear error” on her part not to allow DePape a chance to make a statement before being sentenced as required by law. She scheduled a new hearing for May 28.

Neither prosecutors nor DePape's defence attorneys pointed out Corley's oversight during Friday's hearing. “Nonetheless, it was the Court’s responsibility to personally ask Mr. DePape if he wanted to speak,” Corley wrote.

Hours after Corley handed down the sentence, prosecutors filed a motion noting that the court failed to offer DePape an opportunity “to speak or present any information to mitigate the sentence” as required by federal rule. They asked the court to reopen the sentencing hearing to allow him that option, saying the court has 14 days to correct a sentence resulting from error.

DePape’s defence, however, said they opposed bringing their client back to court, according to the prosecutor's filing.

DePape's defence attorneys appealed the verdict shortly after Friday's sentencing. Corley gave them until Wednesday to respond to her order to re-open the sentencing hearing.

A jury found DePape, 44, guilty in November of attempted kidnapping of a federal official and assault on the immediate family member of a federal official. Prosecutors had asked for a 40-year prison term.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and husband Paul Pelosi arrive for the State Dinner with President Joe Biden and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House, Thursday, June 22, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The attack on Paul Pelosi, who was 82 at the time, was captured on police body camera video just days before the 2022 midterm elections and sent shockwaves through the political world. He suffered two head wounds including a skull fracture that was mended with plates and screws he will have for the rest of his life. His right arm and hand were also injured.

Ahead of the sentencing, one of DePape's attorneys, Angela Chuang, told the judge to consider the prison terms being given to those who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

“The five most serious sentences for people who were convicted of seditious conspiracy, of literally conspiring to overthrow the government, range from 15 to 22 years,” Chuang said.

Corley said the Jan. 6 analogy didn’t adequately reflect the seriousness of breaking into an elected official’s private home. The home attack may have a chilling effect on people seeking office in the future, she said, adding that she believed DePape still poses a danger to society.

“I've seen nothing that suggests that if given the opportunity, he would not act again upon his baseless beliefs,” she said.

DePape admitted during trial that he broke into the Pelosis’ home on Oct. 28, 2022, intending to hold the speaker hostage and get her to admit to corruption. “If she lied, I would break her kneecaps,” he said. Nancy Pelosi was not home at the time.

DePape also admitted to bludgeoning Paul Pelosi with a hammer when police showed up, saying his plan to end what he viewed as government corruption was unraveling.

At trial, DePape, a Canadian who moved to the U.S. more than 20 years ago, testified that he believed news outlets repeatedly lied about former President Donald Trump. In rants posted on a blog and online forum that were taken down after his arrest, DePape echoed the baseless, right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory that claims a cabal of devil-worshipping pedophiles runs the U.S. government.

Corley said DePape is being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and will be deported upon completing his sentence.  

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