Tin foil hat time at the New York Times, which gave credence to a left-wing conspiracy theory from the Democratic fever swamps suggesting, without evidence, that Rep. Lee Zeldin, Republican candidate for governor of New York, colluded with a county district attorney to have Zeldin’s attempted assassin released, in order to make political hay out of the state’s soft-on-crime bail laws.
Reporter Jonah Bromwich, writing alongside Jay Root in Wednesday’s edition, devoted almost 1,500 words to the preposterous prospect that the attacker’s release from jail was part of a Zeldin campaign plot.
The online headlines hinted at the provocation to come: “How Did a Man Accused of Attacking Lee Zeldin Go Free Without Bail? -- The decision to release the suspect was seen by some Democrats as a ploy to fuel Mr. Zeldin’s anti-crime campaign as he runs for governor of New York.”
Hours after the attack last week, Mr. Zeldin, the Republican candidate for governor of New York whose criticism over the Democrat-led changes to the bail statute has been a key issue in his campaign, said on Twitter that he expected the man arrested in the attack, David Jakubonis, to go free.
He then spoke at length when his prediction came true, emphasizing in news conferences and television appearances how Mr. Jakubonis’s release without bail exemplified the issues with the bail law.
But 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.
And finally, they wondered why Mr. Jakubonis had been charged with second-degree attempted assault, a charge that is not bail-eligible, virtually guaranteeing that he would be released as Mr. Zeldin had predicted.
“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....
Yet the Times eventually had to admit:
No evidence has emerged to indicate that the charge was chosen to ensure Mr. Jakubonis’s release, serving to amplify Mr. Zeldin’s campaign message. Several criminal lawyers from Monroe County say the charge was fitting given the particulars of the attack on July 21.
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.
Still, the paper simply would not let the kooky theory go.
Asked if it could have been coordinated to the benefit of Mr. Zeldin, Mr. Thompson was contemplative.
This would not be the first time Bromwich has been suckered in by a left-wing hoax. In 2016 he fell for a notorious YouTube hoaxer who was allegedly removed unjustly from a plane in London for speaking Arabic on a cellphone.