March 4, 2024

It was a typical low-key evening for Paul Pelosi while his wife was out of town: dinner out, home around 10 p.m., watch a little television, and then lights out close to midnight. Then about two hours later, he was woken up by an intruder who burst into his third-floor bedroom.

“The door opened and a very large man came in with a hammer in one hand and some ties in the other,” Mr. Pelosi, 83, told a jury on Monday. “And he said, ‘Where’s Nancy?’”

In a San Francisco courtroom, Mr. Pelosi, the husband of Representative Nancy Pelosi, spoke for the first time publicly about the brutal attack last year that left him hospitalized for days with a cracked skull. The testimony came during the federal trial of David DePape, who has been accused of bludgeoning Mr. Pelosi as he sought out Ms. Pelosi, who was the speaker of the House and in Washington at the time.

Mr. DePape told the police last year that he was on a mission to capture Ms. Pelosi, interrogate her and possibly “break her kneecaps.” He also said that he viewed Ms. Pelosi as a leader of a cabal of liberal elites bent on taking away peoples’ freedoms, echoing the language that right-wing pundits and elected officials have for years used to describe her.

“She was the leader of the pack and he had to take her out,” Mr. Pelosi said the intruder told him.

Sitting across the room from the man accused of attacking him with a hammer, Mr. Pelosi was calm and collected as he recounted the incident. But his voice was shaky when he talked about the lingering trauma.

“I’ve made the best effort I possibly can to not relive this,” Mr. Pelosi said on the witness stand. He said he had not listened to the 911 call from that night, nor watched any of the videos that had been presented as evidence. Except for his interviews with prosecutors, “I have not discussed this incident with anybody,” he said, adding the episode had been “so traumatic for my family.”

In his testimony, Mr. Pelosi, a venture capitalist and real estate investor, recounted the chronology of those early morning hours of Oct. 28, 2022 — from the moment an intruder barged into his bedroom; to his surreptitious call to 911 from his bathroom, speaking in code to not aggravate the man threatening him; to his opening the door for the police, just before he said Mr. DePape struck him with the hammer.

Laura Vartain Horn, the prosecutor, asked him what he remembered next after being bludgeoned.

“Waking up in a pool of blood,” Mr. Pelosi responded.

Mr. DePape’s personal history and alleged crimes are to many a reflection of America’s polarized age and the disinformation that has fueled it: He was a solitary man seemingly radicalized by the dark corners of the internet, who not only embraced conspiracy theories like QAnon and Pizzagate about the “Democratic elite” but also acted on them with violence.

Mr. DePape’s lawyers, who will begin presenting their case on Tuesday, have said that they will not contest the evidence against him, much of which has already been released to the public during the legal process. The attack was captured on police body cameras, and Mr. DePape, 43, has admitted to the crimes in an interview with the police and a jailhouse phone call to a local reporter.

Mr. DePape is charged with two crimes: assault on an immediate family member of a federal official, and attempted kidnapping of a federal official. He faces a possible sentence of life in prison if convicted.

His lawyers have laid out a defense strategy based on narrow legal grounds. In her opening statement on Thursday, Jodi Linker, a federal public defender, argued that federal charges should not apply because of Mr. DePape’s motivation for carrying out the attack. She said he was not acting on account of Ms. Pelosi’s official duties as a member of Congress, but rather targeting a larger conspiracy in which he planned to use Ms. Pelosi to lure other liberal figures he believed were responsible for pedophilia, corruption and destroying freedom in America.

Mr. DePape told the police after his arrest that he had a list of other targets, including the actor Tom Hanks; the billionaire George Soros; Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California; and Adam Schiff, the Democratic congressman from California who gained prominence for his principal role in the first impeachment proceedings against former President Donald J. Trump.

Shortly after the attack last year, Ms. Pelosi announced she was stepping down from Democratic leadership in the House. Later, she said she would run for re-election next year.

Mr. DePape also faces multiple felonies in state court, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse. The next hearing in that case is scheduled for Nov. 29, when a judge is expected to set a trial date.

Before calling Mr. Pelosi as its last witness for the day, the government called several law enforcement officers to testify, including a supervisor from the Capitol Police who has long been a member of Ms. Pelosi’s security detail. An executive from Spokeo, a company that maintains a subscription database of information about individuals, also testified that Mr. DePape had searched for Ms. Pelosi’s San Francisco address in the days before the attack.

Mr. Pelosi said he was still undergoing physical therapy, and suffering pain from the attack. For the better part of the last year, he has worn hats and beanies everywhere he goes. His hair has only just come back, but he still has lumps on his head from the beating. “If I run my fingers, I can still feel them,” he said.

Doctors have told him to be careful with light and noise, and to avoid the news. If he must watch television, they have told him to stick to sports.

“I have just tried to put it out of mind,” he told the jury.

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