Suspect in Armed Attack on GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Released Hours After Incident Despite Felony Charge

The man who allegedly attacked New York’s Republican candidate for governor, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, was released within hours of his confrontation with Zeldin on Thursday at a Rochester-area campaign stop.

David G. Jakubonis, 43, of Fairport, New York, was charged with attempted assault in the second degree, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. The charge is a Class E felony.

Jakubonis was released on his own recognizance after being arraigned, and no one was injured in the attack, the sheriff’s office said.

Zeldin had predicted the man’s release, tweeting early Friday: “The attacker will likely be instantly released under NY’s laws.”


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The incident reflects Zeldin’s campaign point that New York’s bail laws are too lax.

“Far more must be done to make New York safe again. This is very much getting out of hand in this state,” Katie Vincentz, a spokesperson for Zeldin, said in a statement, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

“Unfortunately, Congressman Zeldin is just the latest New Yorker whose life has been affected by the out of control crime and violence in New York.”

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican, said New York’s bail reform has led to “soaring crime,” according to the New York Post.

“Tonight’s attack on Congressman Lee Zeldin at a Monroe County campaign event was much more than an assault on a single individual. It was emblematic of an ongoing attack on our Democracy, our freedom and our very way of life,” Blakeman said.

“There must be real changes to ‘cashless bail’ laws, and we must support law enforcement to keep neighbors safe and hold those who endanger the public accountable for their actions.”

The incident took place while Zeldin was campaigning in Perinton, New York, on Thursday evening. A man rushed the stage with a knife-like object and told Zeldin, “You’re done,” according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.


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AMVETS national Executive Director Joe Chenelly, who was present, tackled the suspect after Zeldin blocked the initial attack, according to witnesses.

“His right hand came up, I assume out of his pocket, and he had a blade on his hand,” Chenelly said, according to Fox News.

“His fingers were like two finger holes in the blade and lunged at the congressman. And Congressman Zeldin blocked the first lunge. And then as he tried to lunge again, I grabbed him from behind and tackled him down to the ground and held him on the ground,” Chenelly said.

Others in the crowd then surged forward to secure Jakubonis.

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Zeldin released a statement on Thursday shortly after the attack thanking New York lieutenant governor candidate Alison Esposito and others who ensured his safety.

“Thank you to everyone who reached out following tonight’s attack in Fairport,” Zeldin said, per Fox News. “Someone tried to stab me on stage during this evening’s rally, but fortunately, I was able to grab his wrist and stop him for a few moments until others tackled him. I’m ok, and @EspositoforNY, and all other attendees are safe.

“The attacker is in custody. Grateful for the attendees who stepped up quickly to assist and the law enforcement officers who quickly responded. I’m as resolute as ever to do my part to make NY safe again.”

According to WROC-TV, Jakubonis reportedly is an Iraq war veteran who some said was intoxicated at the rally. Chenelly said Jakubonis deserves the assistance he needs.

“When he said he served in Iraq, I got down, hands on my knees, and said, ‘You know, we’re going to get through whatever you’ve done here tonight’ and told him, ‘You’re going to get better and focus on that,’ and said, ‘You can contact me after this thing is done,’” Chenelly said.

“I was told not the engage with him right now. I think it’s very important, we obviously have a mental health crisis nationwide— not just with our veterans, but we especially have it with our veterans.”

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