While much of the evidence against Mr. DePape has been in the public sphere for months, one mystery is hanging over the trial as it begins: the identity of “Target 1,” a person whom Mr. DePape has identified to the police as someone he was hoping to lure by taking Ms. Pelosi hostage. Despite objections from the prosecution, Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley has ruled that the defense can call “Target 1” as a witness.
Mr. DePape, who is Canadian and was in the United States illegally when he was arrested, had lived for a time under a tree in a park in Berkeley, Calif., after leaving the home he shared for years with a former romantic partner. He had moved to the Bay Area in his 20s, dabbled in psychedelics, protested the Iraq War and sold hemp bracelets. Later, he worked in carpentry.
Interviews with people who knew Mr. DePape, as well as an examination of his voluminous online writings, painted a portrait of a man deeply absorbed by some of the most virulent right-wing conspiracy theories. According to his blog posts, the online harassment campaign Gamergate — which began in 2014 and had misogynistic undertones — was an entry point for him into the dark corners of the internet where homophobic and bigoted views flourish.
“We’re at a point now where you can’t actually ignore what’s happening on the dark fringes of the internet,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, a professor at the School of Religion at Queen’s University in Ontario and an expert on extremism. “Because more and more, they are having a spillover effect into real life.”
The attack spawned even more disinformation. Elon Musk promoted a conspiracy that involved male prostitution. Donald J. Trump thought the attack might have been staged. Tucker Carlson raised doubts about the facts, saying he was just “asking questions.”