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David DePape testifies in his own defense in Paul Pelosi attack trial and outlines political beliefs, conspiracy theories

The man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi told a California jury on Tuesday that his political beliefs ultimately inspired him to seek out the San Francisco home of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last year, and that he only hit her husband with a hammer because his larger plan was at risk.

Testifying in federal court in his own defense, David DePape appeared somewhat nervous and became emotional at times as he shared examples of conspiracy theories he felt were true, providing insight into his motivations before the attack on Paul Pelosi in the early hours of October 28, 2022. DePape, who described his political leanings as “right of center,” told the jury he had believed the media was distorting or lying about former President Donald Trump and that “everything was a lie coming from the press.”

DePape, 42, said he was focused on Nancy Pelosi and that her husband, Paul, was not on his list of targets. He was “surprised and confused,” he said, when he found the congresswoman was not home at the time.

“I’m telling him, I have other targets, but if you stop me, I’ll go through you,” DePape said, recounting a conversation with Paul Pelosi.

“I reacted. I hit him in the head,” DePape testified. “I reacted because my plan was basically ruined.”

DePape told the jury that he had thought Pelosi was dead until he saw the charges against him and that he recalled hitting him once, though noted that a medical report detailed that Pelosi had been hit multiple times. “I felt bad for him because we had a really good rapport and things were going good until the very last second,” he told the jury.

DePape has pleaded not guilty to federal charges in connection with the attack, including assault on the immediate family member of a federal official and the attempted kidnapping of a federal official. He faces a maximum of 30 years and 20 years, respectively, if found guilty on the charges.

While DePape’s defense attorney, Jodi Linker, conceded on the first day of the trial that her client was the one to attack Pelosi, she argued that his motivation for the assault did not match the charges against him.

“This case here is about the why — the why matters. This case is about whether David acted because of, on account of, Nancy Pelosi’s duties as a member of Congress. He didn’t,” Linker previously told the jury. “And he only struck Paul Pelosi in a quick moment of despair because the police arrived and his larger plan was thwarted.”

Prosecutors, meanwhile, allege that DePape broke into the Pelosis’ home in October 2022, with “a violent plan to kidnap Nancy Pelosi” and “to hold her hostage.”

DePape’s testimony came a day after the 83-year-old Pelosi detailed the attack and told jurors he came to in a pool of blood after he was violently struck in the head. Pelosi recounted publicly for the first time how he awoke from sleep the night of the attack to see a man with a hammer in his home. That man, later identified by police as DePape, asked where his wife was, Pelosi explained.

Pelosi, who underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and injuries to his hand and arm, also testified that it has been a difficult recovery, with spells of lightheadedness and headaches. “I’ve made the best effort I possibly can to not revisit this,” he said.

The trial is expected to draw to a close in the coming days, with the jury having already heard from responding San Francisco Police officers, FBI agents and Capitol Police.

DePape has also pleaded not guilty to charges that include assault and attempted murder in state court. A date for that trial will be set later this month.

CNN’s Jack Forrest and Veronica Miracle contributed to this report.

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