Jewish Rep. Zeldin's attacker charged, detained after prior release

The assailant was arrested for attacking Rep. Lee Zeldin, released without bail and taken back behind bars after being charged.

Lee Zeldin. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Lee Zeldin.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

A 43-year-old man has been arrested and charged with assaulting New York Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin with a deadly weapon last Thursday and could face up to 10 years in prison, the US Attorney's Office of the Western District of New York announced in a statement Saturday night. 

This follows his arrest Thursday, subsequent release from custody without bail Friday and then reincarceration on Saturday.

The man in question, Fairpoint, New York resident David G, Jakubonis, attacked Zeldin, a Jewish politician who is making a bid for the Republican nomination for the gubernatorial election, during a campaign event in Perinton. 

At the time, Jakubonis went to the flatbed trailer where Zeldin was speaking and, with a keychain with two sharp points, approached the lawmaker and grabbed his arm. 

Footage of the incident was shared on social media. In it, Jakubonis can be heard telling Zeldin "you're done" repeatedly as he extends his arm toward the Republican candidate's face or neck. Zeldin pushed him away before both men tumbled to the ground as several others tried to subdue the suspect.

A spokeswoman for Zeldin's campaign, Katie Vincentz, said on Twitter that the suspect had attempted to stab the congressman. Vincentz said Zeldin and members of his team were unharmed.

Though Zeldin has been the victim of some antisemitic incidents in the past, it appears Jakubonis may not have had anything personal against the congressman or was inspired by his Jewishness. Rather, according to the Associated Press, it seems Jakubonis had been drinking and had no idea who he was. Rather, as a decorated veteran of the Iraq War, he simply saw someone addressing a Veterans of Foreign Wars post and wanted to see if veterans were disrespected. 

Other reports indicated that Jakubonis was suffering from a severe decline in mental health over the past several years.

"It is terrible public policy that in the State of New York, you can try to stab a sitting Member of Congress, or anyone else for that matter, and be back out on the street not even 6 hours later."

Katie Vincentz

Arrested, released, arrested

Police were able to arrest Jakubonis Thursday following the attack. However, he was then released by a local judge on Friday after he was arraigned on separate charges.

The reason this happened seems to be due to New York's 2019 bail reform law, something Zeldin has been vocal in his opposition toward in the past.

Zeldin has on numerous occasions, including multiple times in recent days, come out with criticism of the bail reform law, pointing blame at current New York Governor Kathy Hochul and making it a central part of his campaign.

Zeldin has also promised to fire district attorneys who won't enforce laws due to the bail reform law.

Regarding Jakubonis's release, this is something Zeldin predicted would happen.

In a tweet recounting what happened, Zeldin noted that "the attacker will likely be instantly released under NY's laws."

"Just as I predicted, after the man who tried stabbing me last night was charged with Attempted Assault in the Second Degree, a felony, he was then immediately released under the state’s insane cashless bail law, which MUST be repealed!" Zeldin later tweeted.

"It is terrible public policy that in the State of New York, you can try to stab a sitting Member of Congress, or anyone else for that matter, and be back out on the street not even 6 hours later," Vincentz said in a statement.

"This is one of the many reasons why crime is on the rise, especially in certain parts of the state. There is not enough accountability for people when they commit crimes, and this is just one of the many examples we hear all about in New York every single day. Enough is enough!"

On Saturday, Jakubonis appeared before a judge after his release and faced his more serious charges and was then taken back behind bars. He is due back in court on Wednesday.