Alleged attacker of GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin arrested for federal assault

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David Jakubonis, 43, was arrested on Saturday and charged with assaulting a member of Congress with a dangerous weapon, according to Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Burns. Jakubonis made his first appearance before U.S. Judge Marian W. Payson in Rochester on Saturday, according to court documents, and the weapon involved was described in court records as a vigilante key chain.

Jakubonis was already facing state charges for Thursday’s alleged attack. He had been charged with attempted second-degree assault after being accused of confronting Zeldin, a Republican, while giving a speech in Fairpoint, New York. Jakubonis “attempted to stab” Zeldin, according to a campaign statement, and the GOP lawmaker “grabbed the assailant’s wrist to stop him until several others helped knock him to the ground. “. Zeldin was unharmed.

CNN attempted to reach the public defender assigned to Jakubonis for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

According to the criminal complaint filed on Saturday, Jakubonis, an army veteran, allegedly told authorities that he had consumed whiskey on the day of the campaign event and that he “had to check” as he rode on scene and asked if Zeldin was disrespecting veterans. Jakubonis told authorities he didn’t know who Zeldin was at the time.

Jakubonis is then scheduled to appear in court Wednesday on the federal charge.

After his initial arrest Thursday, Jakubonis was held for six hours before his arraignment, where he was released on his own recognizance, according to Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy Brendan Hurley. He had travel restrictions limiting him to Monroe County and a protective order was also issued to keep him away from Zeldin, according to court documents.

Because of the category of crime that would have been committed, under New York law, the presiding judge could not have set bail even if he wanted to, Hurley previously told CNN. In 2019, New York’s Bail Reform Act eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felony charges, and Class E is the least serious felony class.

Republicans have expressed outrage over Jakubonis’ quick release.

Zeldin, who has made rising New York’s crime rate a central focus of his campaign’s attacks on incumbent Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, on Friday condemned the state’s bail system after the initial release of Jakubonis. He said changes to the state’s cashless bail system were needed and that judges should have discretion when determining who should remain in police custody.

“My first and foremost concern with cashless bail and the need to revise it is how dangerous it is,” he said. “Judges should have the discretion to assess dangerousness. It’s about the victim,” Zeldin, who was not injured in the attack, said at a rally in the county. Onondaga, New York. “But even if you had a conversation with the most ardent advocate of cashless bail, I would challenge them on this: I would say they are doing a disservice to the person who attacked us on stage last night because they rush — they have to, by law, they have to rush to get him released.”

Zeldin said he thinks cashless bail should be repealed and that there “should also be some minimum set where certain cases, certain suspects, defendants, they have to stay behind bars.”

Hochul tweeted Thursday night that she was “relieved to hear” that Zeldin was uninjured in the incident.

“My team briefed me on the incident at Lee Zeldin’s campaign event tonight. Relieved to hear that Congressman Zeldin was unharmed and the suspect is in custody. I condemn this violent behavior in the strongest terms possible – it has no place in New York,” Hochul wrote.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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