Suspect of Lee Zeldin attack at New York campaign event faces federal charges

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A man accused of attempting to stab Rep. Lee Zeldin (RN.Y.), the Republican candidate for New York’s gubernatorial contest, during a campaign event has been arrested on federal charges of having assaulted a congressman with a dangerous weapon.

David G. Jakubonis, 43, of Fairport, NY, appeared before a magistrate judge on Saturday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York said in a report.

Jakubonis allegedly stepped onto a flatbed trailer where the congressman was speaking Thursday night, extended a key chain with two sharp points toward him and grabbed his arm, the prosecutor’s office said. During an ensuing struggle, Jakubonis allegedly pulled Zeldin onto the trailer bed, repeatedly stating, “You’re done.”

NY GOP gubernatorial candidate Zeldin attacked at campaign event

Videos from the scene show the attacker climbing onto the stage near Rochester, NY, and throwing himself on Zeldin’s neck. Zeldin grabbed the man’s wrist and others pinned him to the ground. Zeldin later said he was unharmed.

Jakubonis was first taken into custody on Thursday by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, charged and released. The federal charges mean he is back in custody ahead of a detention hearing on Wednesday.

Zeldin, who has focused on New York’s rising crime rate in his campaign, wrote on Twitter late Saturday that he was grateful the U.S. Attorney’s Office “came to do what New York’s broken pro-criminal justice system couldn’t — uphold the rule of law.” He added that the cashless bond “must be repealed”.

Zeldin and other Republicans had criticized Jakubonis’ quick release on Friday as a sign of New York’s lax bail laws. Moments before the forward took the stage on Thursday, Zeldin said New Yorkers were increasingly moving to places like Florida and Texas because they felt “safer” there and ” freer”. Attempted assault is not an offense for which suspects can be held pending bail under New York law.

The federal charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

According to Saturday’s federal complaint, Jakubonis told investigators he was a US Army veteran who had been deployed to Iraq, had been drinking whiskey before the incident, and did not know who it was. Zeldin. Jakubonis told investigators he took the stage to ask Zeldin if he was disrespecting veterans.

When shown video of the incident, Jakubonis expressed disgust and told investigators he “had to check it out,” according to the federal complaint. His lawyer could not be immediately reached on Sunday morning.

The incident could fuel lingering concerns about rising violence directed at public figures at a time of heightened political division. Last month, a man with a gun and a knife was arrested near the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, and the mayor of Louisville was beaten during a parade.

In a statement on Friday, President Biden condemned the attack on Zeldin “in the strongest terms.”

“Violence has absolutely no place in our society or our politics,” he said.

Andrew Jeong and Joanna Slater contributed to this report.

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