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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Suspected attacker of GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin Arrested on Federal Charge

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David Jakubonis, 43, was arrested Saturday and charged with assaulting a member of Congress with a dangerous weapon, according to Barbara Burns, a Justice Department spokesman. Jakubonis first appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson in Rochester on Saturday, according to court documents, and the weapon involved was described in court files as a self-defense keychain.

Jakubonis was already charged by the state on Thursday for the alleged attack. He had been charged with attempted second-degree assault after being charged with confronting Zeldin, a Republican, while giving a speech in Fairpoint, New York. Jakubonis “tried to stab” Zeldin, a campaign statement said, and the GOP lawmaker “grabbed the attacker’s wrist to hold him back until several others helped get the attacker to the ground.” Zeldin was not injured.

Steve Slawinski, assistant federal defense attorney for the Western District of New York representing Jakubonis, said in a statement that Jakubonis will appear in court on Wednesday for a bail hearing.

“I expect to ask the judge to release him by then,” Slawinski said.

Zeldin, who has put rising crime rates in New York City at the heart of his campaign’s attacks on incumbent Democratic government leader Kathy Hochul, said in a statement on Saturday that he was “grateful that federal authorities came to do what the fractured pro-criminal justice system was about.” of the New York State system could not uphold the rule of law.”

According to the charges filed Saturday, Jakubonis, an Army veteran, allegedly told authorities he had been drinking whiskey on the day of the campaign event and “must have checked out” as he walked onstage and asked if Zeldin had no respect for veterans. Jakubonis told authorities that he did not know who Zeldin was at the time.

After his first arrest Thursday, Jakubonis was held for six hours before arraignment, where he was released on his own admission, according to Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy Brendan Hurley. He had travel restrictions that restricted him to Monroe County, and a protection order was also issued to stay away from Zeldin, according to court papers.

Because of the type of crime allegedly committed under New York law, the presiding judge could not have bailed even if they had wanted to, Hurley previously told CNN. In 2019, New York’s Bail Reform Act abolished cash bail on most felony and nonviolent felony charges, and Class E is the least serious felony class.

Republicans expressed their outrage at Jakubonis’ quick release.

Zeldin had convicted on Friday the state bail system after the initial release of Jakubonis. He said changes to the state’s cashless bail system are necessary and judges should have discretion when considering who should remain in police custody.

“My first and foremost concern about cashless bail and the need to review it is dangerous,” he said. “The judges must have discretion to weigh danger. It’s about the victim,” Zeldin, who was unharmed in the attack, said at a rally in Onondaga County, New York. “But even if you had a conversation with the biggest proponent of cashless bail, I’d challenge them on this point: I’d argue they’re doing the person who attacked us onstage last night a disservice because they’re rushing — – they must, by law – they must hasten to get him out.”

Zeldin said Friday he believes that cashless bail should be revoked and that there should “also be a certain minimum where certain cases, certain suspects, defendants should remain behind bars.”

Hochul had tweeted Thursday night that she was “relieved to hear” that Zeldin was not injured in the incident.

“My team informed me of the incident during Lee Zeldin’s campaign event tonight. Relieved to hear that Congressman Zeldin was not injured and that the suspect is in custody. I condemn this violent behavior in the strongest possible terms – it has no place in New York,” Hochul wrote.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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