Teddy Roosevelt, a former GOP governor of New York, got shot at a rally and then delivered a 90-minute speech with a bullet wound. Representative Lee Zeldin, a hopeful GOP governor of New York, got tapped by a knockoff Hello Kitty keychain.
This all checks out.
But Zeldin decided to make lemonade out of lemons, transforming his brush with… well, not “death” so much as “mild laceration,” to lean into attacks on New York’s bail reform laws. Local authorities released his attacker without bail! New York laws prevented the judge from setting bail! Zeldin’s campaign is largely about getting rid of bail reform!
And the drama of someone going after Zeldin like Garfield on lasagna day earned him a lot of attention in right-wing media, including a Fox Business hit promoted with the title, “If Lee Zeldin was a Democrat, assailant would be behind bars.”
Which is probably true! But for reasons that really, really don’t look good for Zeldin.
Before we get into the embarrassing unraveling of Zeldin’s campaign efforts, we need to step back and clarify the New York bail reforms. Because contrary to the persistent complaints of Zeldin and the New York Post, these laws aren’t turning suspected murderers out on the streets, because the laws only apply to non-violent, low-grade crimes.
So then how is Zeldin’s attacker out? A kitty key fob may not be a deadly weapon — at least not in the hands of anyone but MacGyver — but this still seems to cross the threshold as sufficiently violent to take the guy outside the bail reform window.
Would it shock you to learn that the local prosecutor whose office decided on limiting charges that guaranteed the assailant got out served as Zeldin’s campaign co-chair?
I mean, what are the odds! Other than 1 in… 1.
Why didn’t the prosecutor who once served as his gubernatorial campaign co-chair level a bail-eligible charge?
“From my understanding, the Monroe County district attorney was not — Sandra Doorley was not involved at all,” Zeldin said, adding, “She wasn’t involved in that charging decision.”
Oh? The Monroe County district attorney had no input on someone attacking a sitting member of Congress in her jurisdiction? There’s nothing curious about that at all!
Whether Doorley weighed in directly or not, you have to respect the real dilemma Zeldin’s attack presented for conservatives. Because the fundamental problem with “bail reform” as a campaign issue is that it’s about “bail,” meaning it only applies to situations where the defendant was going to be given the opportunity to walk out of jail anyway.
So if the DA’s office charged the attacker with a bail eligible offense and he couldn’t afford to get out, it proves that the system is actually keeping serious criminals off the streets. But if this guy managed to put up the $1,000 or so to get a bond and walked out anyway, it proves how ultimately hollow the bail reform complaints really are. There’s just no good way out for opponents of bail reform.
Except, of course, intentionally undercharging in hopes that no one is smart enough to connect the dots. Spoiler: people were smart enough to connect the dots.
For the record, the Biden administration has since picked up the attacker under a federal law that makes it a crime to assault a member of Congress. Meaning we’ve come all the way around to Lee Zeldin blamed Democrats… for his GOP ally freeing his attacker… that the Democratic Biden administration then arrested.
It’s unclear what Zeldin’s problem is. Who cares if there’s a violent attacker out there intent on hurting him? I mean, his campaign has security at his events, and really armed guards should be able to handle everything that could ever come up.
If only people cared about kids getting shot in schools as much as they care about getting pestered by cat fobs.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.