A judge upheld a 30-year sentence for showing remorse to the man who attacked Paul Pelosi

A man convicted two years ago of trying to hold former Speaker Nancy Pelosi hostage and attacking her husband with a hammer apologized in federal court Tuesday but still received a 30-year sentence in an unusual punishment hearing that was the result of a mistrial.

U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley on May 17 sentenced David DePape to 20 years for trying to kidnap Nancy Pelosi and 30 years for assaulting Paul Pelosi in October 2022, the maximum in both cases. The sentences would run simultaneously.

However, she did not allow the accused to approach the court regarding the verdict. Corley scheduled the hearing for Tuesday solely for the limited purpose of allowing DePape to speak for leniency.

On Tuesday, she apologized to DePape, 44, and her lawyers for her mistake and asked if she wanted to go to court.

DePape, wearing an orange shirt and orange pants with his hair tied in a short ponytail, said “yes” and quickly began speaking from a piece of paper.

“I’m sorry for what I did,” he said, adding that he felt terrible and never intended to hurt Pelosi and that he should have left the house when he realized the former speaker was not there.

DePape said that looking back on this period in his life, he was not doing well. Since then, he said, he has reconnected with his mother and other family members, which is helping him continue to grow. They became emotional at the end of his speech, prompting his lawyers to console him and pat him on the back.

Corley said the sentence must reflect the seriousness of the crime and act as a deterrent to others who might choose to break into the homes of elected officials, hold their spouses hostage and beat them.

“The message needs to be sent that this is absolutely unacceptable for our democracy,” she said.

She said DePape would spend 30 years on credit for the 19 months he had already worked. His federal sentence should run concurrently with any sentence imposed by the state in DePape’s trial. She said she expected to be deported back to Canada after serving her sentence.

Neither prosecutors nor DePape’s defense attorneys noticed Corley’s oversight during the May 17 hearing. But hours after Corley’s sentencing, prosecutors filed a motion saying the court did not provide DePape the opportunity “to comment or present any information to commute the sentence,” as required by federal rules.

They asked the court to resume the sentencing hearing to give him that opportunity.

However, DePape’s attorneys said in a motion that they opposed bringing their client back to court because it would interfere with his state trial. DePape was charged in state court with attempted murder, elder abuse, residential burglary and other crimes. Opening statements in that trial are scheduled to begin Wednesday.

“Given Mr. DePape’s neurodiversity and his mental health issues… a significant amount of time is required to prepare him for the contempt hearing, which necessarily takes away from time to prepare for the state trial,” they wrote.

DePape’s defense lawyers asked the judge to sentence him to 14 years in prison, noting that at the time of the attack he was going through a difficult time, had undiagnosed mental problems and had no previous convictions.

Last year, a jury in November found DePape guilty of attempting to kidnap a federal official and assaulting a member of the federal official’s immediate family. The prosecutor’s office demanded 40 years in prison for him.

The attack on Paul Pelosi, who was 82 at the time, was captured on police camera days before the 2022 midterm elections and shocked the political world. He suffered two head wounds, including a skull fracture, which were repaired with plates and screws, which he will remember for the rest of his life. His right arm and hand were also injured.

Before the sentencing, one of DePape’s lawyers, Angela Chuang, told the judge to consider prison terms for those who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

“The five most severe sentences for people convicted of seditious conspiracy and literally plotting to overthrow the government are 15 to 22 years,” Chuang said.

Corley said the Jan. 6 analogy does not adequately convey the severity of a break-in into an elected official’s private home. She said an attack at home could have a chilling effect on people running for office in the future.

DePape admitted during his trial that he broke into Pelosis home on October 28, 2022, with the intention of holding the speaker hostage and tricking her into confessing to corruption. “If she lied, I would break her kneecaps,” he said. Nancy Pelosi was not home at the time.

DePape also admitted to beating Paul Pelosi with a hammer when police showed up, saying his plan to end what he saw as government corruption had failed.