Man accused of attempted assault on Lee Zeldin remains in custody after court appearance

Man accused of attempted assault on Lee Zeldin remains in custody after court appearance

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The man accused of attempting to attack New York State governor candidate Lee Zeldin will stay in custody, decided a judge during a Federal Court hearing on Thursday. 

Jakubonis, 43, is federally charged with attempting to assault a member of Congress. Thursday was his second Federal Court appearance. He first appeared at the Keating Federal Building in Rochester.

The defendant’s attorney asked for Jakubonis to be released into an in-patient alcohol treatment program. The attorney said that Jakubonis is an alcoholic who was on medication at the time and thought Zeldin was making fun of vets during the campaign event. The judge said he wants to see Jakubonis’ full mental health history first.

Video that News10NBC captured shows Jakubonis attempting to attack Congressman Zeldin during a campaign rally in Perinton on July 21. 

The video shows a man coming on stage at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Perinton and grabbing Zeldin’s arm as he was speaking before they fall to the ground. “You’re done,” the man later identified as Jakubonis can be heard repeating. Zeldin was not injured.

After the altercation, members of the audience disarmed the attacker and used zip-ties pulled from campaign posters to detain them. Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputies said Jakubonis appeared to be holding an object with two protruding points. A witness who helped to tackle the suspect said it was a plastic keychain in the shape of a cat’s face with pointy ears.

Man accused of attacking @leezeldin at rally will stay in custody for now. David Jakubonis’ defense attorney says his client in an alcoholic who was on meds and thought Zeldin was making fun of vets (he wasn’t) so he got on stage to tell him, “you’re done” talking.  Jennifer Lewke July 28, 2022

After the attack, Congressman Zeldin went back on stage to finish his remarks. He released a statement thanking law enforcement officers who responded to the scene. President Joe Biden and Gov. Kathy Hochul were among the many leaders who condemned the attempted attack.

According to the criminal complaint files, Jakubonis told investigators he was drinking whiskey before he went on stage to confront the congressman. Jakubonis was arraigned on July 22 for a state charge of attempted assault and was released by a local judge.

Zeldin and other Republicans criticized the judge’s decision to release Jakubonis. They said it was as an example of the need to reform New York’s bail laws. Zeldin, who won the Republican primary for governor in June, has called on Gov. Hochul to toughen those laws.

“Fortunately, the U.S. Attorney’s Office intervened and they arrested this person and they charged him with a more serious offense. But they were only able to charge him with that offense because I’m a member of Congress,” Zeldin said.

Jakubonis is an Iraq combat veteran and a recipient of the Bronze Star medal, for heroic actions while serving the U.S. Armed Forces. Nick Stefanovic, Director of the Monroe County Veterans Service Agency said many veterans suffer from mental health issues after returning from combat.

“There is very little in this world that you can’t redeem yourself from, and I hope Mr. Jakubonis realizes there are people out there with their hands out, and that he’s is not passed the point of redemption, and he can fix this,” Stefanovic said. 

Jakubonis told investigators he didn’t know who the speaker was and said he must have “checked out.” He said he was emotionally distraught after a recent breakup