Man Who Accosted U.S. Rep. Zeldin Will Be Released to Rehab

Lee Zeldin 1
In this image taken from video provided by WHEC-TV, David Jakubonis, left, brandishes a sharp object as he attacks U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, right, as the Republican candidate for New York governor delivered a speech in Perinton, N.Y., Thursday, July 21, 2022. Jakubonis, 43, has been charged with attempted assault, arraigned and released, a Monroe County sheriff’s spokesperson said.

The man who accosted Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin at a campaign event in western New York will be released from jail into an alcohol treatment program, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian Payson agreed Wednesday to allow David Jakubonis to enter a treatment program administered by the Veterans Administration. He will then be transferred to a halfway house operated by an organization that assists troubled veterans.

The attack on Zeldin, a Congress member from Long Island who is challenging Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, occurred July 21 at a campaign rally near Rochester.

video of the incident shows Jakubonis raised his arm toward Zeldin while holding a keychain with two sharp points. “You’re done,” Jakubonis said four times as he approached Zeldin.

Attorneys for Jakubonis, an Army veteran, have said their client was drunk and was only reaching for Zeldin’s microphone to stop him from talking.

“Mr. Jakubonis, if he is drinking, does have a problem holding his liquor,” defense attorney Steven Slawinski said at a detention hearing, adding that Jakubonis has been prescribed psychiatric medication that can interact poorly with alcohol.

Jakubonis has been jailed since he was charged federally with assaulting a member of Congress with a dangerous weapon. He was initially arrested on a state charge of attempted assault and released.

John DeMarco, an attorney for Jakubonis, said he expects Jakubonis to be released on Monday.

Zeldin released a statement in support of Jakubonis’ release to rehab.

“When our veterans seek treatment, it’s easy to pinpoint their physical wounds, but oftentimes their invisible wounds go unnoticed and untreated,” Zeldin said. “Unfortunately, it’s now clear that Mr. Jakubonis is one of the many veterans battling invisible demons, but, fortunately for Mr. Jakubonis, he is now getting the help he needs. I’m thankful for the judge who has wisely recognized this reality, the Monroe County Veterans Services Office, and other individuals who have worked diligently to assist.”