On Thursday, Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who is currently running for the governor’s seat in New York state, was attacked while on the campaign trail. Zeldin was unharmed.
The New York Congressman was speaking at a Veterans of Foreign Wars event when he was approached by a man who allegedly had a “sharp object.” That object turned out to be a plastic keychain fob fashioned in the shape of a cat. Some had debated that this might be some type of tactical weapon.
At the time of the attack, however, witnesses believed the suspect, David Jakubonis, had a blade of some sort.
Jakubonis allegedly approached Zeldin during his speech and said, “That’s it. You’re done.” Jakubonis, however, has told investigators that he “did not know who Zeldin was” and that he was unaware that Zeldin was a political figure. The suspect says that he “must have checked out” when the incident took place.
Jakubonis told investigators that he had been drinking that day. The suspect was tackled after he approached Zeldin during the speech. He was later released on his own recognizance, something that has infuriated Zeldin as well as others who are in opposition to cashless bail in the state.
Some say that the whole event was staged, however. Zeldin is running on a conservative platform that wants to rescind cashless bail among other criminal justice reforms. He and other conservatives across the country blame these types of reforms for the surge in criminal activity in places such as New York City. In 2020 and 2021, major cities across the United States have seen a huge uptick in violent crimes.
In New York City, people are once again loathe to travel via the subway due to an increase in crime around this form of public transportation.
In the aftermath of the attempt to assault Zeldin, the suspect was arrested once more on Saturday. This time, Jakubonis faces federal charges. David Jakubonis, 43, was brought before a federal magistrate in New York on a charge of assaulting a member of Congress with a dangerous weapon. If convicted, Jakubonis could face a maxiumum of ten years in federal prison.
It was after this second arrest that the suspect claimed he had “checked out” due to drinking whiskey earlier on Thursday. He said he was unaware of Zeldin’s identity as a Congressman.
The public defender in the case, Steven Slawinski, told the Associated Press via an email that he intends to ask the federal judge to release Jakubonis from custody.
New York state passed a law regarding bail reform in 2019 in which people who have been accused of nonviolent offenses would be released without being charged bail. While bail is still an option, pretrial incarceration is no longer a requirement unless the crime is violent. Certain attempted felonies, such as attempted assault, fall into an exceptional category that is at the discretion of the judge.
Jakubonis is a veteran, having served during the Iraq War. He claims he only intended to ask Zeldin if he was being disrespectful to veterans.
Jakubonis himself has seen the video of the alleged attack, and he told investigators that he was “disgusted” by what he saw in the video.
Jakubonis allegedly raised his arm at Zeldin while pointing the keychain (having two sharp points) at Zeldin. Zeldin then grabbed Jakubonis’ wrist and the pair tussled before another man tackled the alleged assailant. Zeldin suffered only a minor scrape during the entire incident.
Some say this is another piece of evidence that Zeldin might have orchestrated the incident.
However, Jakubonis was held for at least six hours before he was arraigned on the attempted assault charge. According to court paperwork, he is ordered not to travel to Monroe County and to stay away from Rep. Zeldin.
On Friday, Zeldin once again condemned the state’s bail policy. By Saturday, federal authorities had re-arrested Jakubonis on the second charge.