After attack at campaign event, Zeldin defends DA’s response
NEW YORK - GOP candidate for New York governor Rep. Lee Zeldin has been clear about his fierce criticism of the state's bail law that allows certain defendants to be released without having to post cash bail.
So when Zeldin's alleged attacker was released without having to post bail, hours after being arrested, Zeldin quickly took to the airwaves to blast the state's "failed bail laws" and "broken pro-criminal justice system."
However, the district attorney in this case also happens to be his close friend.
Get breaking news alerts in the free FOX5NY News app! | Sign up for FOX 5 email newsletters
On July 21, Army veteran David Jakubonis came down a hill toward the stage where Zeldin was hosting a campaign event, witnesses said.
"I noticed he staggered a little bit," GOP candidate for state Assembly and National Executive Director of AMVETS Joe Chenelly explained. "I noticed something seemed a little off with him."
Video shows Jakubonis lunging at Zeldin with a pointed plastic self-defense tool shaped like the face of a cartoon cat and yelling, "You're done" at the congressman.
That is when Chenelly and others were able to wrestle Jakubonis to the ground.
"I was able to grab that guy's arm and kind of bear hug him and took him down to the ground because he immediately started struggling," Chenelly said. "Several other people jumped in at that time, were able to hold him down and we were able to get the weapon out of his hand."
Jakubonis was charged with attempted assault in the second degree, a nonviolent felony, which means under the state's bail laws, he was allowed to walk without posting bail hours after he was arrested.
Zeldin has been highly critical of the state's bail laws and of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for being "too soft" on crime and allowing some defendants to walk without setting bail.
"If you don't have enough money to post bail that's on you," Zeldin said at a campaign event on Monday. "That's bad planning. You're a bad criminal."
However, according to legal experts Jakubonis could have been charged with a violent felony, which would have qualified the case for potential bail.
Yet, the Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley in this case did not step in.
Back in April, Doorley was named a co-chair of Zeldin's campaign, a role that both Doorley and Zeldin are now trying to downplay.
Zeldin said Doorley initially accepted a position as campaign co-chair but took a "less active role" after speaking with the District Attorneys Association of New York (DAASNY).
DAASNY's 2021 ethics guidebook states, "District attorneys and assistants shall not be a member or serve as an official of any political committee, club, organization or group having a political purpose."
The guidebook also states district attorneys should not endorse a political candidate or attend political or social functions in a manner in which they "publicize their attendance at such functions."
However, Doorley was at Zeldin's campaign event on Friday. Zeldin defended this by saying that district attorneys are entitled to attend campaign events.
"It happens all the time all throughout the entire state where district attorneys are attending political events," Zeldin said. "I have no problem accepting the support."
A spokesperson for Doorley said the Monroe County Sheriff's Office was responsible for filing the charge and that an assistant district attorney spoke with the sheriff's office and agreed to the nonviolent felony charges. The spokesperson said Doorley did not review the charges until Friday afternoon—after Jakubonis was arraigned and released. The spokesperson added that Doorley has now also requested to recuse herself from the case.
Zeldin said he is not as critical of Monroe County as he is of Bragg because outside factors were at play that day. Two Rochester police officers were shot, one fatally, later that night.
However, Zeldin has never granted this leniency to Bragg.
"They were dealing with other cases when they were all called to this incident in Fairport," Zeldin said. "I saw them going through a lot emotionally and they were getting pulled in different directions."
Jakubonis was rearrested over the weekend on federal assault charges for allegedly assaulting a member of Congress with a dangerous weapon.
Chenelly said he is also working with Jakubonis now to make sure he is getting the veteran services he needs.