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San Francisco Judge Dismisses 3 Charges Against Paul Pelosi Attacker

Attempted Murder, Assault with a Deadly Weapon among dismissed charges

By Evan Symon, June 7, 2024 12:27 pm

The judge in the state trial against David DePape, the man who assaulted and severely injured Paul Pelosi, the husband of former Speaker of the House and current Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), dismissed multiple charges against DePape on Thursday over double jeopardy laws.

On October 28, 2022, Paul Pelosi, then home alone in San Francisco, was attacked by DePape. Armed with a hammer, DePape broke into the Pelosi home and began calling out for the Speaker, causing Paul Pelosi to call the police and confront the man. DePape soon began trying to tie him up while saying that he wanted to do the same to his wife. A scuffle soon broke out, which at that time police arrived in time to see DePape start to attack Pelosi. Special agents from the U.S. Capitol Police’s California Field Office and SFPD officers quickly tackled DePape as a result and arrested him.

Pelosi recovered from his injuries, while DePape has been in jail for over the year, being a subject of a joint SFPD, FBI, and Capitol Police investigation. In the year since, DePape has said that his real target was Nancy Pelosi, that he had planned to break her kneecaps for ‘lying’, and that he had several other prominent officials and celebrities on his attack list, including Governor Gavin Newsom, actor Tom Hanks and President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

DePape was eventually charged by the federal government with one count each of “attempted kidnapping of a federal official in the performance of official duties” and “assaulting an immediate member of a federal official’s family and inflicting a serious injury with a dangerous weapon”. The San Francisco DA also charged him with another six counts, including attempted murder, residential burglary, elder abuse, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment of an elder, and threatening the family member of public official.

The federal trial began in November 2023, with many expecting to take several weeks. However, the timeline was shortened significantly when DePape’s legal team admitted that he did indeed attack Pelosi. Rather than challenge that, they went after how his motivation for the assault didn’t match charges against him, aiming for lesser charges rather than being outright not guilty. This admission led the jury to deliberate only days after the trial had started. They soon found him guilty of one count each of kidnapping and assault, with DePape to serve up to 50 years behind bars because of his crimes. DePape’s lawyers had asked for only 14 years in prison, citing mental illness. Last month, DePape was finally sentenced to 3o years in prison.

The state trial in San Francisco Superior Court began on May 29th, the day after the federal trial ended. However, DePape’s lawyers immediately began to say that the state trial was double jeopardy, as DePape had already been tried of the same incident, despite some charges being different.

Three charges dismissed by judge over double jeopardy

“DePape’s federal convictions were based on precisely the same conduct that is charged in Counts I to IV: breaking into the Speaker’s home and striking Mr. Pelosi on the head with a hammer,” said DePape’s lawyers. “Because DePape has now been convicted for those acts, those sections of the law, bar a retrial. DePape’s assault on Mr. Pelosi with a hammer was an act of violence that shocked our country. So was his forced entry into the Pelosis’ home. The United States has tried, convicted and severely punished DePape for those crimes. California law does not permit a second trial for the same conduct.”

While prosecutors were up in arms over the argument, it managed to partially win over Judge Harry Dorfman. On Thursday, Dorfman dismissed the charges of  attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse, as he had already been convicted of those in federal court. Despite Dorfman getting rid of three charges, DePape will still faces charges of false imprisonment, residential burglary, threatening a family member of a public official, attempting to sway a witness and aggravated kidnapping in the state trial.

“This is all one event,” said Judge Dorfman of his ruling. “A sober look at the evidence is – same place, same time, same act.”

Both the defense and the prosecution challenged the ruling later on Thursday, delaying the trial around a week as the California Court of Appeal looks into both challenges. Prosecutors wish for all charges to be restored, while the defense is looking for more charges to be dropped. Specifically, the defense wants aggravated kidnapping also dropped, as that charge carried the possibility of life without parole.

The amount of years served coming from the state trial is of great concern to both sides as well. Currently, DePape is serving 30 years from his federal sentencing, meaning he will be 74 when he is released from prison and faces all but certain deportation to Canada. However, both the federal and state punishments are set to run concurrently, meaning that anything over 30 years in the state trial means that he will have to serve longer in prison in California. The three charges dismissed on Thursday, as well as the kept-in aggravated kidnapping charge, have the power to keep him in prison well beyond 2054.

“Both sides know exactly what they want,” explained Los Angeles-based lawyer Thomas Cass to the Globe on Friday. “The prosecution wants to prove DePape’s guilt on as much as possible, as DePape entered a not guilty plea on the charges. But the defense wants to get him under 30 years. Dorfman’s dismissal of three of the charges yesterday disrupted both of them. So now the trial needs to go on longer as this is sorted out.

“Based on the federal sentencing, DePape’s team knows that things aren’t looking good, so arguing double jeopardy and trying other ways for charges to go away before the trial starts is tactical.”

The trial is expected to resume as early as next week.

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