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Suspect in Paul Pelosi attack planned to break House speaker's kneecaps, DOJ says in filing charges

The San Francisco district attorney announced state charges against David DePape, 42, including attempted murder. The DA said the attack appeared to be "politically motivated."

WASHINGTON — State and federal authorities announced criminal charges Monday against the suspect in Friday’s brutal attack on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., which is alleged to have included plans to break the speaker's kneecaps.

Federal prosecutors charged the suspect, David DePape, 42, with attempted kidnapping and assault with intent to retaliate against a federal official by threatening or injuring a family member.

Hours later, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced state charges, including attempted murder, residential burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, false imprisonment of an elder and threats to a public official and their family.

The federal complaint alleged that DePape sought to kidnap the House speaker when he broke into her San Francisco residence, not realizing that she was in Washington, D.C., and that only her husband, Paul Pelosi, 82, was home.

"Pelosi was asleep when DePape came into Pelosi’s bedroom and stated he wanted to talk to 'Nancy.' When Pelosi told him that Nancy was not there, DePape stated that he would sit and wait," the complaint said, adding that Pelosi called authorities from the bathroom.

Police said they recovered zip ties in Pelosi's bedroom and in the hallway near the front door of the home. In DePape's backpack, they said, they also found, "among other things, a roll of tape, white rope, one hammer, one pair of rubber and cloth gloves, and a journal."

DePape is alleged to have said in an interview police conducted on the day of the attack that he was "going to hold Nancy hostage and talk to her."

"If Nancy were to tell DePape the 'truth,' he would let her go, and if she 'lied,' he was going to break 'her kneecaps,'" investigators said in the federal complaint.

The suspect is also alleged to have told investigators 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 federal complaint went on to say DePape told police that "he wanted to use Nancy to lure another individual" to him. The complaint didn't identify that person.

Jenkins said Monday the state charges were based on facts in the federal affidavit and other information that will be detailed in a motion Tuesday to detain DePape without bail. His arraignment is set for Tuesday afternoon.

"It appears as though this was — based on his statements and comments that were made in that house during his encounter with Mr. Pelosi — that this was politically motivated," Jenkins said at a news conference announcing the charges Monday evening.

Law enforcement determined Saturday that DePape had been living for the last two years in the garage of a residence in Richmond, just outside San Francisco. In the garage, "among other things, agents seized two hammers, a sword, and a pair of rubber and cloth gloves," the complaint said.

The FBI has been working with San Francisco police and U.S. Capitol Police in the investigation. All three law enforcement agencies, as well as the district attorney, got Paul Pelosi's testimony Sunday, said a source with knowledge of the investigation. The source said that Pelosi is awake and has all of his cognitive functioning and that he appeared to remember everything — he gave his version of events.

The speaker’s office said Friday that Pelosi "underwent successful surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands," adding that his doctors expect him to make a full recovery.

Paul Pelosi was still in intensive care, surrounded by family members, a source with knowledge of the situation said early Monday.

Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Monday evening that her husband was “making steady progress on what will be a long recovery process.” She provided no further details about his condition.

Two sources briefed on the investigation said the attacker was searching for the House speaker. Before the assault, the intruder confronted Paul Pelosi shouting: “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?”

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said officers arrived at the home just before 2:30 a.m. PT and observed “Mr. Pelosi and the suspect both holding a hammer.” He said the attacker “pulled the hammer away from Mr. Pelosi and violently assaulted him with it."

Police tackled the intruder, disarmed him and took him into custody, Scott said. San Francisco police said Sunday that zip ties were found at the scene.

A Pelosi family member said the attacker brought the hammer and broke the windows of the home facing the backyard. The family member said that once he was inside, the intruder was trying to tie up Paul Pelosi and said he would wait “until Nancy got home.” When the attacker wasn’t looking, Paul Pelosi called 911. The family member said that Pelosi was home alone and that he was hit in the head with the hammer multiple times. When police arrived, the attacker said, “We are waiting for Nancy,” according to the family member.

The suspect appears to have operated a website on which he wrote a wide variety of posts touching on almost all manner of modern conspiracy thinking: aliens, Jewish people, communism, vaccines, voter fraud and many other topics. Two law enforcement officials said an early look at DePape’s online footprint showed recent blog posts that espoused ideas typically associated with far-right extremism, along with some liberal anti-establishment ideas.