By Daniel Trotta
Nov 16 (Reuters) - A federal jury on Thursday convicted a right-wing conspiracy theorist of a hammer attack on the husband of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prosecutors said.
David Wayne DePape, 43, broke into the Pelosis' San Francisco home and struck Paul Pelosi over the head with a hammer in the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 2022, while Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, was still speaker and away in Washington.
The San Francisco jury, which had deliberated since midday Wednesday, found him guilty of attempted kidnapping and assault of an immediate family member of a federal official, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's office said.
The crimes carry potential prison sentences of 20 years and 30 years, respectively, under federal sentencing guidelines.
DePape also faces further charges including attempted murder in California state court that carry a potential sentence of 13 years to life in prison.
Nancy Pelosi issued a statement on behalf of her family thanking people for their support and saying Paul Pelosi continues to make progress on his recovery, but withheld comment on legal matters because the state case was still pending.
"The Pelosi family is very proud of their Pop, who demonstrated extraordinary composure and courage on the night of the attack a year ago and in the courtroom this week," the statement said.
Paul Pelosi was knocked unconscious and hospitalized for several days, undergoing surgery for skull fractures. He also sustained injuries to his hands and right arm.
Testifying for the prosecution, Pelosi said he has tried not to relive the episode, including by avoiding the video clip of him being attacked, but that he did remember waking up on his floor in a "pool of blood."
Defense attorney Jodi Linker argued during the trial that DePape did not commit a federal crime because he was not driven by Pelosi's official duties as speaker. Instead, she argued, DePape's firm belief in wide-ranging but misguided conspiracy theories motivated him to bring down the wealthy and powerful ruling class.
Linker let many of the facts of the case go uncontested as the hammer strike was recorded by police body cameras and DePape admitted to his actions while testifying in his own defense.
Evidence showed DePape was driven by right-wing conspiracy theories, embracing the fictions spread by QAnon, questioning the Holocaust, and feeding off political accusations against Hunter Biden, the president's son, and George Soros, the billionaire Holocaust survivor.
After video of the attack was made public, right-wing media continued to promote unfounded claims about the attack, imagining some homosexual relationship between the two men because Pelosi was in sleepwear shorts.
DePape told the jury he wanted to kidnap Nancy Pelosi, interrogate her, and break her kneecaps if he found her to be lying. But after breaking into the home he instead found her husband, then age 82, asleep in his bed. DePape said the attack was a reaction to his original plan going awry.
"He was never my target and I'm sorry that he got hurt," DePape said.
Police recovered zip ties in the bedroom and in the hallway near the front door, plus a roll of tape, rope, a second hammer, a pair of gloves and a journal in DePape's backpack, according to court records.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Christopher Cushing and David Gregorio)