Accused Zeldin attacker to remain in custody after Friday court appearance

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. David Jakubonis, the man accused of attacking Congressman Lee Zeldin during a campaign event in Perinton back in July, will remain in federal custody for now. 

Jakubonis appeared in Federal Court on Friday for his second detention hearing. Judge Marian Payson issued another continuance until Oct. 6 saying she wants an assessment of Jakubonis’ current addiction and mental health issues before deciding whether to grant pre-trial release. 

Exclusive video captured by News10NBC at the event shows Jakubonis coming on stage at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post and grabbing Zeldin’s arm as he was speaking. Before pulling Zeldin to the ground, he can be heard repeatedly saying “you’re done.”

Zeldin was not injured in the incident. Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputies said Jakubonis appeared to be holding a sharp object with two protruding points. A witness who helped to tackle the suspect said it was a plastic keychain in the shape of a cat’s face with pointy ears.

Jakubonis’ attorney, John DeMarco says his client, an Iraq war veteran, is an alcoholic who drank a “handle” of whisky and was “black-out drunk” during the campaign event when he wrongfully thought Zeldin was making fun of veterans. Jakubonis was reaching for Zeldin’s microphone to stop him from talking, according to DeMarco, not to harm the Congressman. 

43-year-old Jakubonis is federally charged with assaulting a member of Congress and also faces state charges for assault. The Erie County District Attorney’s Office will oversee the state case against Jakubonis after the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office made a request to have a special prosecutor appointed. The state charges are put on hold until the federal prosecution is complete. 

Jakubonis is an Army veteran who served in Iraq. He is a recipient of the bronze star medal, awarded to members of the armed forces who perform heroic actions in combat. He was honorably discharged in 2012. 

He and his wife went on to have twins a short time later but in 2015 she tragically passed away and after that, according to DeMarco, his life unraveled. He gave custody of his children to his brother, was arrested for DWI twice and was in and of treatment for alcoholism and other mental health issues. 

“There is very little in this world that you can’t redeem yourself from, and I hope Mr. Jakubonis realizes there are people out there with their hands out, and that he’s not passed the point of redemption, and he can fix this,” says Nick Stefanovic, the head of Monroe County’s Veterans Service Agency who attended the court hearing on Monday in support of Jakubonis. 

Joe Chenelly, the Executive Director of AMVets and a candidate for NYS Assembly was actually the person who tackled Jakubonis during the attack on Zeldin. Chenelly was also in court, supporting Jakubonis on Monday.

“I made a commitment to David there that night on July 21 and I certainly plan to continue forward doing whatever I can to ensure that he gets the care that he needs and that he’s earned through his service,” Chenelly tells News10NBC.

Jakubonis’ attorney asked for his defendant to be released into an in-patient alcohol treatment program followed by very structured out-patient requirements. Judge Payson will determine what happens from here at the October hearing.