Newsday TV’s Faith Jessie and Newsday Albany Bureau chief Yancey Roy discuss the fallout, and how the attack may impact future campaigning. Credit: Newsday

Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin said Friday his campaign will be beefing up security, following an attempted assault by a man wielding a sharp object the night before in suburban Rochester.

Zeldin, a Long Island congressman since 2015, uses private security for his events, spokeswoman Katie Vincentz said. Officials now have been in contact with the U.S. Capitol Police, which provides security for sitting Congress members, but there’s been no determination whether that agency would add security personnel.

Vincentz said the campaign also will be coordinating with local police at future events.

The incident occurred on a low stage at a rally before dozens in Perinton. Video posted by news outlets showed the man climbing on the platform, approaching Zeldin and pointing a black hardened plastic keychain with two sharp points designed for self-defense — an item much like the “My Kitty Self-Defense Keychain.”

“The first thing I saw was that he was wearing a hat that said he was a veteran,” Zeldin said at a campaign stop Friday in Syracuse. “And my guard couldn’t possibly be more dropped. But at the same exact time, I noticed that he had a weapon in his hand.”

Zeldin said the man was saying, “You’re done.”

“And obviously in that point, regardless of whatever’s on your hat, this was not a normal situation and there needed to be action taken,” Zeldin said.

Aides and onlookers helped tackle the man, whom police identified as David Jakubonis, 43, of Fairport, to the platform and pulled Zeldin out of the scrum. He later finished his speech.

“I thought it was important to get back on stage last night,” Zeldin said Friday, adding: “Yes, we have a little bit more security (today) than last night.”

U.S. Army Maj. Jackie Wren told Newsday that Jakubonis served as a medical laboratory specialist from January 2007 through January 2012.

Jakubonis deployed to Iraq from December 2008 through December 2009 and held the rank of specialist at the end of his service, according to Wren, an Army spokeswoman. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation, Achievement and Good Conduct medals; the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and multiple service ribbons, Wren said.

Jakubonis, a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, told The New York Times on Friday that he did not know who Zeldin was. He said he approached Zeldin to try to take his microphone after someone told him that Zeldin was “disrespecting veterans,” the Times said.

Jakubonis said he was battling a relapse of alcoholism and was being treated for anxiety, according to the Times.

Despite the threat, Jakubonis was charged by local law enforcement with a nonviolent felony, attempted assault in the second degree.

Under a recent rewrite of bail laws, prosecutors can’t request bail for that class of nonviolent felony, unless there are other considerations, such as flight risk or certain elements of past criminal behavior, several attorneys told Newsday Friday. The defendant was arraigned in Perinton town court and released around 2 a.m. Friday.

Law enforcement searched Jakubonis’ residence and said they found no guns. They said additional charges were possible.

If prosecutors had charged Jakubonis with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon or first-degree attempted assault, those crimes would be bail-eligible, experts said.

The difference between first- and second-degree attempted assault hinges on whether officials believe the suspect intended to cause “physical injury” or “serious physical injury,” experts said.

A spokeswoman the Monroe County district attorney declined to comment on whether bail would have been sought in a similar case under the law before 2020, according to the Times.

Zeldin said the incident underscored one of one of his campaign themes: Rolling back bail reforms of 2019 and 2020 that ended the use of bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Zeldin said.

Republicans and some Democrats have argued the bail overhaul is linked to a rise in certain crimes. Supporters of the 2019 changes point to statistics that show a very low percentage — 2% by some measures — of defendants released without bail later are rearrested on violent charges.

Gov. Kathy Hochul — Zeldin’s election rival — steered bail amendments earlier this year to walk back some of the 2019 changes. The new amendments allow judges to consider a defendant’s history and the seriousness of the crime in whether to set bail.

Hochul condemned the attack and said she was “relieved to hear that Congressman Zeldin was not injured.”

With John Valenti, Robert Brodsky and The Associated Press

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