STATEN ISLAND, NY – A Staten Island grand jury refused to indict a Grant City bar owner on charges stemming from a confrontation last month in which he allegedly presented himself to the sheriff’s deputy while trying to escape arrest for braving city and state coronavirus (COVID -19), Advance / SILive.com learned.
However, the jury accused Daniel Presti, co-owner of Mac’s Public House, of two crimes of violating state laws on alcohol control for unlicensed sale of alcohol and unlicensed bottle clubs, prosecutors said.
Even so, Presti and Mark J. Fonte, one of his lawyers, claimed victory on Friday.
Presti, who testified before the grand jury on Thursday, had been arrested on various charges, including assault and reckless endangerment, resulting from the incident, which occurred overnight from December 5 to December 6.
“It’s a huge relief. A huge burden has been lifted, “Presti said in a telephone interview early Friday.” My muzzle is out of my face now. It is very clear that the governor and the mayor have sent a team to silence me. “
“What’s happening is a farce,” said Presti, an outspoken critic of the city’s and state’s coronavirus policies governing business.
He thanked his “great legal team” – Fonte and the lawyer Luigi Gelormino.
Source said: “Mr. Presti was fully vindicated regarding all matters relating to the sheriff. We are grateful to the professionals of the district attorney’s office who have investigated the facts of this case. “
Mac’s public house has been a sticking point in protests against government-imposed restrictions on the coronavirus.
In signs posted, the bar declared itself an autonomous zone starting November 20, saying it would not comply with the rules and regulations issued by the governor or mayor, a civil complaint claims.
The tavern’s liquor license was suspended on November 27.
In a statement Friday, District Attorney Michael E. McMahon said he intends to pursue the two charges against Presti and hold him accountable under the law.
The district attorney said his staff have worked with the city sheriff’s office, NYPD, and other agencies since the investigation began.
“We have diligently, thoroughly and vigorously pursued all facts and evidence, and made every effort to present such evidence fairly and impartially to the grand jury, as is our obligation and duty to the people of Staten Island,” he said. McMahon.
“The acts of violence against these officers are not something we take lightly, and my thoughts and prayers continue to be with the wounded deputy sheriff while performing his duty in the early morning of December 6 last year in Grant. City, “McMahon said.
The district attorney said he could not disclose further informationon on the case, citing the confidentiality of the grand jury proceedings.
Mitch Schwartz, deputy press secretary of the mayor’s office, called the grand jury’s decision “an absurd miscarriage of justice.”
“The defendant is a serial taunt who nearly killed a uniformed officer – in front of the camera – after fleeing the consequences of his actions,” Schwartz said. “His factory has endangered the lives of New Yorkers in the midst of a pandemic. We’re a safer city without it, and the grand jury should have known better. “
Authorities said the incident between Presti, then 34, and the two sheriff’s officers occurred around 00:15.
Officers approached Presti on the street near his Lincoln Avenue pub, officials said. He escaped and got into his 2020 turquoise jeep on South Railroad Avenue, according to a criminal complaint.
Soon he started the engine and got into one of the officers, dropping it on the hood, claims the complaint.
As the officer clung, Presti drove along the South Railroad, then turned left twice – onto Lincoln Avenue and then onto North Railroad Avenue – before a sheriff’s car stopped him, the complaint says.
The video released by the defense team in December showed the moment when Presti struck the deputy sheriff with his jeep after fleeing from the authorities.
At the time, Fonte said it “clearly shows my client running for his life as unidentified people dressed in dark suits.”
New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito initially said the sheriff’s officer sustained two leg fractures.
Source said the evidence refuted that claim.
“I was informed by the district attorney that a review of the medical records showed that the sheriff’s officer did not break his legs or any other bones in his body,” Fonte said. “Sheriff Fucito’s claims that the officer broke his legs turned out to be a complete falsehood.”
Fonte also said the grand jury’s vote not to indict Presti “vindicates” McMahon’s decision not to seek bail for the Presti Criminal Court following his arrest.
The bail is not fixed as a punishment, but to ensure the return of the accused to court on the established dates.
The district attorney was criticized by the mayor, the governor and the Legal Aid Society, a group of public advocates.
Legal Aid argued that McMahon’s handling of the case up to that point demonstrated “preferential treatment” in the justice system of “white New Yorkers with means.”
In response, McMahon said he intended to “fully pursue the matter on the basis of facts and evidence”.
He said it was wrong to “assume that bail is indicative of what the outcome of a criminal case will be or how hard my office will work to pursue justice.”
Fonte said: “The district attorney’s initial assessment of the matter turned out to be correct and his decision not to ask for bail was the right one. Those who insinuate that his decision not to bail based on factors other than the facts of this case owe an apology to District Attorney McMahon. “
“My client is grateful that the professionals in the district attorney’s office have taken a critical look at the sheriff’s actions,” Fonte said.
Fonte was extremely critical of Fucito, the head of the sheriff’s office, and said he should resign.
He said the sheriff’s officers had “lurked (ed) in the dark” and chased Presti “like a dog in the street”.
“This lie from the sheriff’s office shouldn’t go unpunished,” Fonte said. “My client has suffered terribly from the sheriff’s lies. He should immediately apologize to my client and the people of Staten Island. I also ask for his immediate resignation. “
The lawyer again urged the city to order the police department to set up a training program for the sheriff’s department and to appoint “an NYPD professional.”
The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to an email asking for comment.
Fonte and Presti said Mac’s Public House will remain closed pending the outcome of the civil litigation, which is slated for the matter February 2 in the state Supreme Court, St. George.
Last month, the city filed a public harassment lawsuit against Mac’s Public House.
The lawsuit seeks to make the bar a public nuisance and to close the shutters for breaking city and state bans on indoor eating and drinking in bars and restaurants in an “orange zone”.
A Staten Island judge denied the city’s offer for a temporary restraining order, which would have subjected the pub to a lengthy closure and fines.
However, Judge Catherine M. DiDomenico scheduled a February 2 hearing on the city’s request for a preliminary injunction.
A preliminary injunction is more lasting than a temporary restraining order, which is a short-term measure.
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