The man accused of attacking the husband of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a hammer pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges when he appeared Tuesday in a San Francisco court.
David DePape, 42, was ordered to be held in custody after the arraignment in the city where he is alleged to have assaulted Paul Pelosi in a pre-dawn attack in the couple’s luxury home.
DePape, of California, was arrested Friday morning after he allegedly broke into the mansion, intending to tie up the powerful politician and break her kneecaps if she did not confess to Democratic Party “lies,” the US Justice Department said in a court filing.
DePape had tape, rope, zip ties and other materials with him, the Justice Department said, but he found only Pelosi’s 82-year-old husband, whom he attacked, hitting him in the head with a hammer.
DePape wore orange jail clothes and spoke only to answer procedural questions during the brief appearance, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Judge Diane Northway signed an order banning DePape from being in contact with the alleged victim or his wife, or from going within 150 yards (meters) of their home.
The story of the attack quickly metastasized into a political litmus test in the highly divided United States.
Liberals blasted the dangerous coarsening of public discourse and the willing perpetuation of falsehoods by mainstream Republicans, that has seen Nancy Pelosi cast as a figure of hate on the right, and a legitimate target for real-life violence.
Swathes of the conservative media ecosystem, meanwhile, set about questioning the narrative around the attack, with lurid and unproven suggestions it was a sexual encounter gone wrong.
New Twitter boss Elon Musk was among those who helped popularise the theory after tweeting a link to a speculative opinion piece by an outlet with a history of unreliability.
Speaking outside court, DePape’s court-appointed lawyer Adam Lipson said the defense team would be looking into the swirling untruths that may have influenced his client.
“There’s also been a lot of speculation regarding Mr. DePape’s vulnerability to misinformation and that is certainly something that we are going to look into,” he told reporters.
The suspect faces charges on both a state and a federal level.
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins on Monday said DePape faces charges of attempted murder, residential burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, false imprisonment of an elder as well as threats to a public official and their family.
If convicted on the state charges, he would face 13 years to life in prison, according to Jenkins.
Federal authorities on Monday charged DePape with attempting to kidnap a US official and assaulting her family member over her actions in her job.