A man accused in last month’s attack on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges of attempting to kidnap a federal official and assaulting a member of a federal official’s family.
David DePape, appearing in orange clothes without handcuffs, was assigned a public defender who entered the plea on his behalf during a brief court appearance.
The attack on Paul Pelosi occurred as threats against politicians and election officials have been at all-time highs and authorities have issued warnings about rising extremism in the US.
Authorities alleged Mr DePape had hoped to find Ms Pelosi at home but found her husband instead.
Mr DePape, a fringe activist drawn to conspiracy theories, has also pleaded not guilty to state charges of attempted murder, burglary and elder abuse.
The federal charges include assault upon an immediate family member of a US official with the intent to retaliate against the official on account of the performance of their duties. This charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison.
A second charge states Mr DePape attempted to kidnap a US official, Ms Pelosi, on account of the performance of her duties, which could bring a maximum 20 years in prison.
Officers responding to Mr Pelosi’s 911 call found him and Mr DePape fighting over a hammer, the indictment says. An officer ordered Mr DePape to drop the hammer but he responded, “um, nope”, before swinging it forcefully at Mr Pelosi, it says.
The incident lasted about 15 seconds, it says, but left Mr Pelosi lying on the floor with blood pooling around his head. He was treated in hospital for a fractured skull.
Christine Pelosi, one of the Pelosis’ children, sat in the courtroom during Mr DePape’s appearance.
Mr DePape is being held in state custody without bail.