The accusations against Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin’s alleged attacker are grave enough for a more serious charge that could have gotten him held on bail, legal experts told The Post on Friday.
Troubled Army veteran David Jakubonis was charged with attempted second-degree assault, which led him to be automatically sprung from custody under New York’s controversial bail-reform law.
But former Manhattan prosecutor Mark Bederow said the details in the felony complaint against Jakubonis — who’s accused of swinging “a set of self-defense knuckles which had two sharp pointed ends” at Zeldin’s throat after threatening, “You’re done” — make a case for attempted first-degree assault, which is eligible for bail.
“If he had connected with [Zeldin’s] neck, he could have killed him,” Bederow said.
“Certainly, they could have charged first-degree on a swing and a miss.”
Under the state Penal Law, the lesser assault charge involves an attempt to cause “physical injury,” while the more serious one is based on an attempt to cause “serious physical injury.”
Another former Manhattan prosecutor, Jeremy Saland, also said, “I think that this would constitute attempted assault in the first degree.”
“He’s not trying to inflict a black eye or cause a swollen lip,” Saland said.
“He’s trying to pierce a region of the body that could be fatal or inflict some sort of long-term impairment or disfigurement.”
Bederow called the caught-on-camera attack on Zeldin “an attempted assassination,” adding: “If they wanted to be really aggressive, they could have charged attempted murder.”
“This just makes a mockery of New York’s criminal justice system, that someone can take a swing at a gubernatorial candidate’s throat and be arrested and released in a matter of hours,” he said.
“I think that makes New York’s criminal justice system just look like a national laughingstock.”
Zeldin’s running mate, former NYPD cop Alison Esposito, and aide Christopher Buckley both heard Jakubonis repeatedly threaten, “You’re done,” as he approached the outgoing GOP congressman from Long Island during a campaign speech in upstate Fairport on Thursday evening, according to court papers.
Jakubonis, 43, also made unspecified “admissions” to members of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office after being advised of his Miranda rights, the complaint says.
Esposito, who helped subdue and disarm Jakubonis, told The Post that she wouldn’t “second-guess how the police charged and what they went through.”
But she added: “I am not certain that assault two is the appropriate crime when you’re taking a dagger and attempting to stab a sitting United States congressman in the neck.
“I would like them to re-evaluate that charge going forward,” she said.
A spokesperson for Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said, “The sheriff’s office filed the charge. That’s all we can say at this time.”
Spokesperson Calli Marianetti wouldn’t say whether the DA’s Office reviewed the complaint before it was filed.
A spokesperson for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office didn’t return emails and a phone message.
Marianetti also said Doorley planned to recuse herself from the case because she’s a co-chair of Zeldin’s campaign committee and attended Thursday’s event in upstate Fairport.
A special prosecutor, most likely a DA from an adjoining county, will be appointed by District Administrative Judge William Taylor, a spokesman for the state court system said.
The court-appointed lawyer who represented Jakubonis at his arraignment didn’t return an email seeking comment.
The defendant is due back in court on Aug. 30.
Additional reporting by Zach Williams
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