Perinton, NY – A man accused of attacking U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin (R-New York) during a gubernatorial campaign stop last week was immediately released on his own recognizance due to New York’s bail reform laws, but was quickly charged federally and returned to custody.
Zeldin said he was not at all surprised to learn that the suspect, 43-year-old David Jakubonis, was released on his own recognizance after his arraignment in Perinton Town Court following the incident.
“His words as he tried to stab me a few hours ago were ‘you’re done’, but several attendees, including @EspositoforNY, quickly jumped into action & tackled the guy,” Zeldin tweeted, according to FOX News. “Law enforcement was on the scene within minutes. The attacker will likely be instantly released under NY’s laws.”
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) confirmed in a press release that Jakubonis was released from custody by the court just hours after the attack.
Zeldin, the Republican candidate for New York governor, was speaking to residents about bail reform at a Veterans for Foreign Wars post in Perinton at approximately 8 p.m. on July 21 when the incident occurred, FOX News reported.
Cell phone footage captured a portion of his speech that day.
“Zeros will be heroes again come January 1,” he said, standing on top of a flatbed trailer. “Our hometown workers, our teachers, our law enforcement officers, our firefighters.”
Zeldin noted that people are leaving New York because they are feeling “safer” in other states.
“This is our last stand for New York,” he said.
Just then, a man walked across the trailer towards the congressman with his hand raised, leading to a scuffle between him and Zeldin, cell phone footage showed.
American Veterans (AMVETS) National Director Joe Chenelly then tackled the suspect to the ground, FOX News reported.
“His right hand came up, I assume out of his pocket, and he had a blade on his hand,” Chenelly later told the news outlet. “His fingers were like two finger holes in the blade and lunged at the congressman. And Congressman Zeldin blocked the first lunge. And then as he tried to lunge again, I grabbed him from behind and tackled him down to the ground and held him on the ground.”
The MCSO said the suspect, identified as Jakubonis, “had a weapon in his hand, swung it towards Zeldin’s neck, and told him, ‘You’re done.’”
David G. Jakubonis tried to kill Lee Zeldin and now they are out on bail. Assassination attempts against Congressmen get you out of jail in hours. pic.twitter.com/wY88Ed029e
— twiggy4065 (@twiggy40651) July 22, 2022
Other members of the audience also jumped in to restrain the attacker, who was ultimately led away by deputies and charged with felony second-degree attempted assault.
Zeldin subsequently released a statement thanking his supporters and those who stepped in to thwart the near-stabbing, FOX News reported.
“Someone tried to stab me on stage during this evening’s rally, but fortunately, I was able to grab his wrist and stop him for a few moments until others tackled him,” he said. “I’m ok, and @EspositoforNY, and all other attendees are safe. The attacker is in custody. Grateful for the attendees who stepped up quickly to assist and the law enforcement officers who quickly responded. I’m as resolute as ever to do my part to make NY safe again.”
As Zeldin predicted, Jakubonis was released on his own recognizance a short while later following an arraignment in Perinton Town Court, the MCSO said.
“After being charged with a felony for last night’s attack, the man who tried to stab me was instantly released back onto the street due to New York’s insane cashless bail law,” Zeldin tweeted the next day. “We MUST repeal cashless bail in New York!”
After being charged with a felony for last night’s attack, the man who tried to stab me was instantly released back onto the street due to New York’s insane cashless bail law. We MUST repeal cashless bail in New York! pic.twitter.com/7pMpulaOoJ
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) July 22, 2022
He added that “political scores” should be settled at the ballot box, “not on stage at campaign events trying to violently attack candidates you disagree with.”
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York Trini Ross announced on July 23 that Jakubonis was subsequently arrested on a federal charge of assaulting a member of Congress using a dangerous weapon.
He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, Ross said in a press release.
According to federal prosecutors, Jakubonis used an “keychain with two sharp points” during the attack.
Tonight, @leezeldin was targeted in a violent attack at a campaign rally in Monroe County. Thanks to the swift action of several brave event goers, the perpetrator was subdued. Congressman Zeldin, @EspositoforNY, and all attendees are safe, but this could have ended much worse. pic.twitter.com/eiq1qxuRDd
— New York GOP (@NewYorkGOP) July 22, 2022
He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marion Payson on July 23 and was ordered to remain in custody pending a detention hearing on July 27.
According to court documents, Jakubonis claimed he had been consuming alcohol all day and that he had no idea who Zeldin was, WNBC reported.
Jakubonis, an Iraq War veteran, allegedly told investigators that he climbed up on stage to confront Zeldin because he felt the gubernatorial hopeful was disrespecting military veterans.
When he was shown video footage of the attack, the suspect allegedly told investigators he “must have checked out,” WNBC reported.
Zeldin is also a military veteran.
The suspect’s former neighbor, who did not want his name released, said Jakubonis has been going through “some kind of mental break” following his medical discharge from the U.S. Army in 2012 and the death of his wife, the New York Post reported.
He said he used to be close friends with the couple and their twins.
“He became more and more detached over the years after his wife died,” the neighbor told the New York Post.
Jakubonis’ children were placed in his brother’s custody after his wife’s death, the neighbor said.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. Warning – Graphic Content:
Attempted assassination of New York gubernatorial candidate during a speech
— Firam (@firamnews) July 22, 2022