ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A man accused of attacking New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin at a recent campaign rally told investigators he had been drinking that day and did not know who was the congressman, authorities said as the man was arrested Saturday on a federal assault charge.
David Jakubonis, 43, made a first appearance Saturday before a federal justice of the peace on a single count of assaulting a congressman with a dangerous weapon. The charge carries a potential maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
He was ordered to be held until a bail hearing in federal court on Wednesday. Prosecutors said he should remain in custody because he was a flight risk and dangerous, according to a court filing.
Jakubonis was arraigned Friday on a separate charge of attempted second-degree assault and was released by a local judge. It drew criticism from Zeldin and other Republicans who held it up as an example of the need to reform New York’s bail laws, which Zeldin called Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul to harden.
A 2019 bail reform law in New York eliminated remand incarceration for those charged with most nonviolent offenses. The law gives judges the ability to set bail in almost all cases involving violent crimes, but it has exceptions for certain attempted crimes such as attempted assault.
The federal criminal complaint filed Saturday alleged that Jakubonis, an Iraq War veteran, told investigators he drank whiskey Thursday before going on stage as Zeldin addressed a Veterans of Foreign Wars post. in the town of Perinton to ask the speaker if he was disrespecting veterans.
Jakubonis “did not know who the speaker was or that the speaker was a political person,” according to the complaint, which was filed in federal court in Rochester. The complaint added that when Jakubonis watched video of the Thursday night incident, he told investigators he “had to check it out” and that what was depicted in the video was disgusting.
According to the video of the attack, Jakubonis raised his arm towards Zeldin as he held a keychain with two sharp spikes. The Long Island Congressman then grabbed Jakubonis’ wrist and the two fought to the ground as others rushed to help. Zeldin, who also served in the military, suffered a minor scratch.
A message was left on Saturday for the deputy federal public defender representing him.