The man who was caught on video attacking Republican U.S. Rep. and New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin during a campaign rally claims he didn’t know who the politician was at the time of the incident, the Associated Press reports.
David Jakubonis, 43, made his first appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Rochester, New York on Saturday (July 23) in relation to the attack, which resulted in a single count of assaulting a member of Congress with a dangerous weapon and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Jakubonis claimed he “did not know who the speaker was or that the speaker was a political person” and, when he was ordered to watch the footage of the incident, said he “must have checked out” at the time, according to a complaint obtained by the AP.
Jakubonis was ordered to be held in custody until a bail hearing in federal court scheduled to take place on Wednesday (July 27).
Prosecutors suggested that Jakubonis should remain jailed and considered to be a flight risk, according to a court filing obtained by the AP.
Assistant federal public defender Steven Slawinski, who is representing Jakubonis, confirmed that he planned to ask the judge to release his client from custody in an email sent to the AP.
Jakubonis was arraigned on Friday on a separate charge of second-degree attempted assault and released by a local judge, which led to criticism from Zeldin and his Republican supporters over New York’s bail laws, a topic in which he’s rallied against his opponent, Democratic Governor Kathy Hocul, during his campaign.
Video shared by WHEC showed an audience member, later identified as Jakubonis, interrupt Zeldin’s speech and appear to say “okay, you’re done” while holding a sharp object in one hand and grabbing the candidate’s arm with the other, pulling him Zeldin to the ground before being apprehended with zip-ties.