A Republican candidate for New York state governor was assaulted Thursday during a campaign stop at a VFW hall near Rochester.
Candidate Lee Zeldin was speaking to the gathered audience on a slightly elevated platform surrounded by square hay bales. Zeldin, a four-term congressman from Long Island, was discussing public safely and rising costs of living when a man slowly approached him.
The man whom police later identified as David Jakubonis, raised his right hand that wielded a plastic defense object towards Zeldin. He repeatedly told the congressman, “You’re done,” as he appeared intent on harming Zeldin with what appeared to be a plastic My Kitty defense tool.
Video of the exchange was posted to the website of a Rochester NBC affiliate.
Jakubonis, of Fairport, was charged with second-degree attempted assault, a Class E felony. “Jakubonis was arraigned in Perinton Town Court and released on his own recognizance,” said Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter in a statement.
He was released without having to post bail due to changes in NYS bail laws enacted under former Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Class E felony Jakubonis was charged with is considered a nonviolent felony in which current state law bars judges from setting bail. Before the cash bail reform, prosecutors would have been able to ask the court to require the defendant to be held on bail, according to the New York Times report.
Zeldin appeared understandably upset after learning his attacker had been released on his own recognizance.
“The first thing that I will do after I’m sworn into office is to do my constitutional duty — it’s not just constitutional authority — but to do my constitutional duty to remove the district attorney who refuses to enforce the law,” he said Friday.
“If the [district attorney] refuses to enforce the law, the governor has the duty to remove that DA,” Zeldin added.
The gubernatorial candidate continued his planned campaign bus tour around New York Friday, after beefing up security. At a stop outside of Syracuse, he sharply criticized Gov. Kathy Hochul for not pushing harder for changes to the state’s bail laws.
“What I propose is we repeal cashless bail,” Zeldin said at a news conference, “that judges are given discretion to weigh dangerousness, flight risk, past criminal record and the seriousness of the offense.”
While some argue that bail reform lets criminals get out of jail too easily until their trial, advocates counter that innocent people are not forced into bad plea deals in order to stay out of jail while they await trial.
Left unsaid is why the District Attorney did not charge Jakubonis with a violent felony, which would have allowed the judge to require bail be posted.