When New York GOP gubernatorial candidate congressman Lee Zeldin was attacked during a recent campaign rally by a man attempting to stab him, many people were outraged when the attacker was immediately released from custody without bail. The situation calmed a bit when David Jakubonis, 43, was taken back into custody after being hit with federal charges. Now some details of the investigation are starting to come out and attorneys for Jakubonis are putting forward a claim that really doesn’t sound much like an alibi. The defendant is saying that he had been drinking whisky that day and “must have checked out” because he didn’t remember doing it. He also said that he didn’t know who Congressman Zeldin was and had no idea he was a “political figure.” (Associated Press)
A man accused of attacking New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin during a recent campaign rally told investigators he’d been drinking that day and didn’t know who the congressman was, authorities said as the man was arrested on a federal assault charge Saturday.
David Jakubonis, 43, made an initial court appearance Saturday before a federal magistrate judge on a single count of assaulting a member of Congress with a dangerous weapon. The charge carries a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
He was ordered held until a bail hearing in federal court Wednesday. Prosecutors said he should remain detained as a risk of flight and dangerous, according to a court filing.
The judge in the federal case has ordered Jakubonis held in custody until a bail hearing on Wednesday. A prosecutor working the case has asked the judge to consider him to still be dangerous and a potential flight risk.
Right off the bat, claiming that you were drunk and don’t remember trying to stab someone doesn’t sound like a very good defense. Also, the entire affair was caught on video (as one might expect at a political rally), so there is no avenue for the defense to claim that he didn’t do it. I suppose it’s possible that the defense is planning to work on some sort of temporary insanity plea.
Of course, as much as I hate to say it, it’s not inconceivable that Jakubonis is telling the truth. Parts of his story seem to be supported by an interview I watched with the state senate candidate who organized the rally and was one of the people who rushed in to tackle the maniac. He said that he had seen Jakubonis arriving at the rally and immediately took notice of him because he “just didn’t look right.” He described him as appearing confused and sort of meandering toward the stage. That’s why he kept an eye on him and moved into position so he could quickly intervene if things got out of hand, which they obviously did.
Also, the rally being held involved Zeldin addressing the local VFW post. Jakubonis is allegedly a veteran who served in Iraq. He told investigators that he was wondering whether Zeldin was insulting veterans. That might explain why he was saying “you’re done” when he attacked Zeldin and attempted to take away his microphone. But it also indicates that he must at least remember some of the events from Thursday.
It’s also not unreasonable that Jakubonis might not have had any idea who Zeldin was. He’s not one of the higher name recognition members of the House. And if the attacker doesn’t follow politics closely, he might not have had a clue. If he was there because of the VFW rally and was so drunk that he mistakenly thought the speaker was trashing veterans, I suppose his story could be mostly accurate. But if it turns out that he’s lying and he was specifically there to go after Zeldin, someone should ask Governor Kathy Hochul (Zeldin’s opponent in November) how she feels after publishing the dates and locations of Zeldin’s campaign events on social media and calling him “dangerous.”
None of this adds up to an excuse that should get Jakubonis off the hook of course. He will still have to face charges for assaulting a member of Congress, which could land him behind bars for up to a decade. But if he doesn’t have any prior arrests (unknown as yet), I wouldn’t be terribly shocked if a judge took that under consideration, along with his military service, and let him off with a lighter sentence and perhaps some sort of substance abuse treatment program for alcoholism. We should know more on Wednesday, but for the time being, Zeldin isn’t seriously injured and is back on the campaign trail.