When Rep. Lee Zeldin was attacked during a campaign stop last week he made a prediction about what would happen next. “The attacker will likely be instantly released under NY’s laws,” Zeldin tweeted.
His words as he tried to stab me a few hours ago were “you’re done”, but several attendees, including @EspositoforNY, quickly jumped into action & tackled the guy.
Law enforcement was on the scene within minutes.
The attacker will likely be instantly released under NY’s laws. pic.twitter.com/wZEyIyrjFe
— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) July 22, 2022
And as we all know that prediction came true.
The man accused of attacking U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., during a gubernatorial campaign event Thursday evening was released without bail shortly following his arrest, just as Zeldin predicted hours after the attack.
The fact that Rep. Zeldin, who is running for Governor of New York, was able to call this shot like Babe Ruth and the fact that New York’s loosened bail laws have been a focus of his campaign was a bit too much of a coincidence for some on the left. Last night, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes devoted a whole segment to pointing out that the DA whose office was responsible for prosecuting the suspect is a Zeldin supporter and was at the event where he was attacked.
“The story is a little more complicated than Lee Zeldin initially let on,” Hayes explained. He continued, “Because people started naturally asking, wait a minute, who is the prosecutor who only charged this guy with attempted 2nd degree assault? Well the district attorney for Monroe County New York where the attack happened is a woman named Sandra Doorley. And it turns out Sandra Doorley is a personal friend of Lee Zeldin.” Hayes continued in this vein for a couple more minutes. He never outright says this was a conspiracy to prove Zeldin right about bail reform but he strongly implies it (full video below). Hayes was back at it today on Twitter.
Put these together and it sure *looks* like a DA, who’s usually a throw-the-book-at-them law and order type has her office downcharge a guy who assaulted Zeldin so that he could be released without bail and give Zeldin ammunition for the campaign’s main focus.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 27, 2022
The NY Times apparently went looking for evidence of some kind of GOP plot and their story, which was published yesterday, opens with Democrats who, like Chris Hayes, are certain there is something rotten going on in Monroe County.
…almost immediately, the involvement of Mr. Zeldin’s political allies prompted questions about the incident. Many Democrats seized on the relationship between the candidate and the Monroe County district attorney, Sandra Doorley, who as recently as this week was listed on Mr. Zeldin’s website as a campaign co-chair. They noted that the sheriff who filed the charge against Mr. Jakubonis, Todd K. Baxter of Monroe County, was also a vocal opponent of the bail law…
“I have no idea why a prosecutor would not charge the more serious offense,” said Charles D. Lavine, a Democrat who serves as the chair of the Assembly’s judiciary committee and is a former criminal defense lawyer. “Here’s a situation where someone attacks an elected official with a weapon. Could it have been — as some people are suggesting — that the charge was drafted in such a way as to allow Zeldin to complain about the bail laws in the state of New York? That I don’t know.”
State Assemblyman Demond Meeks, a Rochester Democrat, went even further, saying he was surprised at the “lighter” charge, given Ms. Doorley’s reputation as an “aggressive” prosecutor, and said that the affair was “definitely a political ploy.”
Unfortunately for the Democrats who clearly want this to be true, the Times wasn’t able to turn up any evidence to support it. On the contrary, they found lots of evidence to suggest there was no outside involvement in the charges in this case and that the charges themselves were probably appropriate.
In an interview, the investigating officer at the sheriff’s office who filed the charge, Jeffrey Branagan, said that there had been no input from the district attorney’s office, other than to tell him that the charge was not eligible for bail…
Mr. Branagan said that he had not spoken to the sheriff before determining the charge to be filed against Mr. Jakubonis.
He said that he had driven to the scene of the attack and had interviewed Mr. Zeldin as well as some of his staffers about what had happened. He had not previously spoken to Mr. Zeldin, a congressman representing Suffolk County on Long Island, and said he had not known who the candidate was.
After completing his investigation, Mr. Branagan made three calls to the district attorney’s office. The first two were to Perry Duckles, a deputy to Ms. Doorley, whom Mr. Branagan informed that he planned to file a charge of attempted assault in the second degree…
Mr. Branagan said that it was not unusual in Monroe County for the sheriff’s office to file such charges without a prosecutor present, and lawyers who practice in criminal court there agreed…
Defense attorneys and former prosecutors who practice in Monroe County said that the attempted assault charge was fitting given the specifics of Mr. Jakubonis’s attack on Mr. Zeldin, and that they saw nothing overtly suspicious about the circumstances in which it was filed.
So the investigating officer didn’t know who Zeldin was, wasn’t contacted by the DA’s office and didn’t speak to the anti-bail reform Sheriff before deciding on what charge to file. And on top of that both local prosecutors and defense attorneys think the charges were appropriate and that the way they were arrived at was not unusual for the county.
To be fair here, I’d probably be suspicious too if the party labels were reversed but ultimately the facts are what they are. Chris Hayes should have seen this story before his show aired and definitely could have seen it before tweeting his claims out again today. He ought to circle back to this story on tonight’s show and admit that, in this case, it looks like Zeldin really did call this without any outside help.
Finally, you have to appreciate the irony here which is that Democrats are essentially complaining that it doesn’t seem plausible, absent some GOP skullduggery, that a deranged man could commit an assault like this in New York and walk free less than 24 hours later. But that is what happened. If Democrats really are shocked by the outcome, maybe that means Rep. Zeldin has a point about bail reform they should consider.
Here’s the full segment by Chris Hayes.