Sat. Dec 3rd, 2022

The attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has not only raised alarm about the threat of violence to elected officials and their families, but also become the focus of baseless conspiracy theories propagated by a litany of Republicans and conservatives.

After state and federal charges were filed against a suspect, the San Francisco district attorney, Brooke Jenkins, said that the widespread misinformation had made it all the more important for prosecutors to present the facts to the public.

Here is what we know about the Oct. 28 attack at the speaker’s San Francisco home, based on court documents and accounts provided by officials.

The affidavit from an F.B.I. agent that accompanied the federal charges provided the most complete, and chilling, narrative of the break-in to date. It detailed a groggy early-morning home invasion that culminated with a single, sudden hammer blow, delivered in the presence of shocked police officers.

The suspect, identified by the police as David DePape, broke a glass door and entered the residence, awakening Mr. Pelosi, according to the federal complaint. The suspect told Mr. Pelosi that he wanted to talk to “Nancy” and learned she was not there. When Mr. DePape said he would sit and wait for Ms. Pelosi, her husband said that she would not return for several days.

It was around that time that Mr. DePape took out zip ties from his pocket. In a recorded interview with police officers, Mr. DePape said he wanted to restrain Mr. Pelosi so he could go to sleep.

He also told the police that he intended to take hostage and perhaps break the kneecaps of Ms. Pelosi, whom he saw as “the ‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party.”

At one point, Mr. Pelosi tried to access an elevator, which has a phone, but was blocked from doing so, according to the local prosecutor. At some point after that, Mr. Pelosi ducked into a bathroom to call 911 from his cellphone at 2:23 a.m., the federal complaint said. Officers with the San Francisco Police Department arrived eight minutes later to find the two men struggling over a hammer.

When they asked what was going on, Mr. DePape “responded that everything was good,” the F.B.I. agent wrote. At that moment, Mr. DePape yanked the hammer from Mr. Pelosi’s grip and struck him once in the head, rendering him unconscious on the floor.

The officers quickly restrained Mr. DePape. When they examined the contents of his backpack, they found another hammer, tape, rope, two pairs of gloves — rubber and cloth — and a journal.

Mr. Pelosi, 82, who underwent surgery to repair a fractured skull and serious injuries to his hands and right arm, remained in the intensive care unit of a hospital as of Monday, surrounded by his family, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Mr. DePape, 42, was charged by federal prosecutors with attempting to kidnap Ms. Pelosi and assaulting a relative of a federal official.

State prosecutors have also charged Mr. DePape with six felonies: attempted murder, residential burglary, elder abuse, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment of an elder and threatening family members of public officials. Mr. DePape was expected be arraigned on the state charges on Tuesday.

If convicted, Mr. DePape faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for the attempted kidnapping of a federal official in the performance of official duties, and up to 30 years for assaulting an immediate member of a federal official’s family and inflicting a serious injury with a dangerous weapon.

Much remains unknown about Mr. DePape. But the authorities have been examining what appeared to be Mr. DePape’s copious online presence, which included angry rants and extremist views.

The domain of a blog written by a user who called himself “daviddepape” was registered to an address in Richmond, Calif., in August, and law enforcement determined that Mr. DePape had lived there for about two years, according to the federal complaint. From August until the day before the attack on Mr. Pelosi, the blog featured many antisemitic sentiments as well as concerns about pedophilia, anti-white racism and “elite” control of the internet.

One of the blog posts suggested that there had been no mass gassing of prisoners at Auschwitz, and others were accompanied by malicious and stereotypical images. Another reposted a video lecture defending Adolf Hitler.

Explaining why he didn’t flee the scene after he realized Mr. Pelosi had surreptitiously dialed 911, Mr. DePape compared himself to the founding fathers battling the British, saying “he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender,” according to the federal complaint.

In the aftermath of the attack, Republicans and other conservative voices spread lies, misinformation and baseless conspiracy theories about the assault, ominously suggesting that the media was withholding sordid facts about the case.

Elon Musk, the billionaire who completed his takeover of Twitter last week, posted a link to a discredited newspaper known for publishing falsehoods and claimed that “there might be more to this story than meets the eye.” The publication, offering no evidence, suggested the assailant was a male prostitute. Mr. Musk’s tweet was later deleted.

Some conservative media outlets framed the assault as a consequence of “soft on crime” policies of Democrats, a frequent attack line by Republicans around the country in the lead up to the midterm elections.

In comments that — deliberately or not — served to debunk some of the conspiracy theories, prosecutors said on Monday that Mr. Pelosi had never seen his attacker before.

Reporting was contributed by Kellen Browning, Glenn Thrush, Tim Arango, Luke Broadwater, Steven Lee Myers, Stuart A. Thompson, Luke Vander Ploeg, Emily Cochrane and Adam Goldman.

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