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Suspect in hammer attack on Paul Pelosi pleads not guilty to charges

Suspect in hammer attack on Paul Pelosi pleads not guilty to charges
David Wayne DePape, 42, who is charged with breaking into US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco home and clubbing her husband in the head with a hammer, wears his arm in a sling before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Diane Northway at the Criminal courts in San Francisco,
PHOTO: Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO – The man accused of breaking into US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco home and clubbing her husband in the head with a hammer pleaded not guilty on Tuesday (Nov 1) to attempted murder and other charges and was ordered to remain jailed without bond.

David Wayne DePape, 42, showed up for his first court appearance since Friday's attack with his right arm in a sling, a consequence, his court-appointed public defender said, of a dislocated shoulder suffered during the arrest.

The attorney, Adam Lipson, told reporters afterward that DePape's legal team would review a number of issues that might factor into his client's defence, including his "vulnerability" to "political misinformation" and his mental state.

"I look forward to representing Mr DePape and providing a vigorous defence of him and to getting to an equitable and just resolution of this matter," Lipson said.

Appearing in San Francisco Superior Court, DePape was arraigned on state charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, elder abuse, false imprisonment and threatening a public official.

Lipson entered a plea of not guilty to all charges, which prosecutors have said could carry a maximum prison sentence of 13 years to life, and added, "we deny the allegations."

DePape stared straight ahead toward a chalkboard at the front of the courtroom during most of the proceedings, which lasted less than 15 minutes.

He spoke little during the hearing, answering "yes" when Judge Diane Northway questioned him about waiving his right to a preliminary hearing in 10 days. And he shouted out, in unison with his lawyer, the correct pronunciation of his name (de-PAP) when asked by the judge.

Northway ordered DePape to remain in custody without bail for pretrial proceedings, at least until a formal detention hearing is held.

But Lipson told a throng of reporters in the courthouse corridor afterward that his client already remains under a federal detention "hold" as well.

The judge also issued a protective order requiring DePape to keep away from the Pelosis and their home and to refrain from trying to communicate with them.

Predawn intrusion

DePape is accused in court documents of forcing his way into Pelosi home before dawn on Friday with plans to take the speaker of the US House of Representatives hostage, and to break her kneecaps unless she told him the "truth" under his questioning.

With the speaker away in Washington at the time, the intruder instead confronted her husband, Paul Pelosi, 82, who managed to furtively call emergency-911 for help.

Police arrived minutes later, just in time to witness the two men struggling with a hammer before the intruder grabbed the tool away and struck Pelosi over the head, according to an account of the incident contained in an FBI affidavit filed in federal court on Monday.

Officers then subdued DePape and took him into custody, authorities said.

They later recovered zip ties in the home, as well as a roll of tape, rope, a second hammer, a pair of gloves and a journal in DePape's backpack, the affidavit said.

They said the intruder broke in through a glass door to the residence with the same hammer he is accused of using to strike Paul Pelosi.


The real estate and venture capital executive has since undergone surgery for skull fractures and injuries to his hands and right arm and remained hospitalised on Tuesday.

Nancy Pelosi, 82, issued a statement late on Monday saying her husband was continuing to make "steady progress on what will be a long recovery process."

Federal prosecutors have charged DePape separately with assault and attempted kidnapping charges punishable by up to 50 years in prison. He was yet to be scheduled for a court appearance in the federal case.

The attack has stoked fears about politically motivated violence one week before midterm elections that will decide control of Congress during one of the most vitriolic and polarised campaign seasons in decades.

Online messages recently posted to several websites by someone going by the user name "daviddepape" were filled with bigoted sentiments against minorities, Jews, women and transgender people, while embracing the cult-like, right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory.

Experts in extremist ideology have said Friday's attack appeared to be an example of a growing trend they call "stochastic terrorism," in which unstable individuals are inspired to violence by hate speech and scenarios they see online and hear echoed by public figures.

On Tuesday, US Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in a statement: "We believe today's political climate calls for more resources to provide additional layers of physical security for Members of Congress."

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