Investigators: An Attacker “Did not Know Who” Zeldin was

A man who was accused of attacking Lee Zeldin, the New York GOP governor-elect, during a campaign rally said he had been drinking and that he didn’t know the person. Authorities arrested him on Saturday for a federal assault.

David Jakubonis, 43, made an initial court appearance Saturday before a federal magistrate judge in Rochester, New York, on a single count of assaulting a member of Congress with a dangerous weapon. The charge carries a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

He was held in custody until Wednesday’s bail hearing at a federal court. According to court documents, the prosecution said that he was a flight risk and dangerously in custody. Steven Slawinski (assistant federal public defender), representing Jakubonis said via email to The Associated Press he intended to request the release of Jakubonis.

Jakubonis, who was also charged with attempted assault in second degree by the state on Friday, was released after being arraigned. Zeldin and others Republicans were critical of it, pointing out that the incident was an example of New York’s need for reforming its bail laws. Zeldin had called on Democratic Governor. Kathy Hochul will make it more difficult.

David Jakubonis (C) is taken into custody by Monroe County Sheriff deputies after he brandished a sharp object during an attack on Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), as the Republican candidate for New York governor delivered a speech in Perinton, N.Y., on July 21, 2022, in this image taken from video. (WHEC TV via AP

A 2019 bail reform law in New York eliminated pretrial incarceration for people accused of most nonviolent offenses. Although the law allows judges to grant bail for most cases that involve violent felonies it does not allow them to do so in certain instances, such as attempted assault.

The federal criminal case filed Saturday alleges that Jakubonis was an Iraq War vet who told investigators he had been drinking whiskey the night before. He then went onto stage as Zeldin spoke at a Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Perinton, asking the speaker if they were disrespecting veterans.

Jakubonis said he didn’t know the identity of the speaker or that the speaker had been a politician, according to the complaint. Jakubonis told investigators that he had seen video of the incident on Thursday night and thought it was disgusting.

According to the video, Jakubonis reached out toward Zeldin while holding a keychain that had two sharp points. Jakubonis grabbed Jakubonis by the wrist, and they fought to the death. Others jumped to their aid. Zeldin was also a veteran of the military and suffered minor injuries.

By David Porter

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