NYC ‘autonomous zone’ bar owner indicted, escapes assault charge

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The co-owner of a Staten Island bar that declared itself an “autonomous zone” exempt from state and city COVID-19 rules has been indicted for operating without a license — but he escaped far more serious charges that he slammed his car into a city sheriff’s deputy who was trying to arrest him, prosecutors announced Friday.

A grand jury indicted Daniel Presti, co-owner of Mac’s Public House in Grant City, on Thursday on charges of unlicensed sale of alcohol and unlicensed bottle club relating to the Dec. 6 incident, said Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon.

However, the grand jury declined to indict Presti for allegedly ramming his Jeep into the sheriff’s deputy outside the bar — a decision denounced by City Hall and the city Sheriff’s Office.

Video from the scene exclusively obtained by The New York Post showed the moment Sgt. Kenneth Matos tried to block Presti from driving away — only to be flung onto the hood as Presti accelerates.

Presti, 43, allegedly carried Matos some 300 feet, breaking both the sergeant’s legs, before he was arrested.

Presti, who testified before the grand jury, was happy with the decision, and is continuing to call himself a victim of Albany and City Hall.

“It’s a huge relief. A huge weight has been lifted,” he told the Staten Island Advance on Friday.

“My muzzle has come off my face now. It’s very clear that the governor and mayor sent out a squad to silence me.”

McMahon said there was enough evidence to slap Presti with the liquor charges.

“As has already been made public by his own attorney, Mr. Presti was also given the opportunity to testify in these proceedings and took advantage of that right that he has under the law,” McMahon said in a statement Friday.

“After reviewing all of the evidence presented, the grand jury voted that there was sufficient evidence to charge Mr. Presti.”

But as to the grand jury’s failure to indict on the Jeep charges, McMahon said only, “Acts of violence against these officers is not something we take lightly.”

“My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the deputy sheriff injured during the performance of his duty in the early morning hours of Dec. 6 of last year in Grant City,” he added.

The incident began when a sheriff’s deputy posing as a customer entered Mac’s and noticed the pub was selling booze indoors despite having its liquor license revoked on earlier allegations of flouting COVID-19 rules.

When the bar closed at 10 p.m., deputies approached Presti to issue him a summons — but he jumped in his Jeep and drove into one of the deputies, video of the incident showed.

That officer was identified by sources as New York City Sheriff’s Sgt. Kenneth Matos, who was hospitalized for his injuries. The assault was captured on surveillance video.

Mitch Schwartz, the mayor’s deputy press secretary, denounced the grand jury’s decision as an “absurd miscarriage of justice.”

“The defendant is a serial scofflaw who almost killed a uniformed officer – on camera – after fleeing the consequences of his actions,” Schwartz said in a statement to The Post. “His establishment endangered New Yorkers’ lives in the middle of a pandemic. We’re a safer city without it, and the grand jury should have known better.”

New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito said his deputy was clearly the victim in the assault captured on video.

“The multiple evidence videos submitted to the grand jury clearly showed deadly physical force was deployed against a uniformed deputy sheriff for carrying out his duty,” Fucito said in a statement.

“The choices of the Grand Jury are beyond my review, but we stand by the investigation and actions of the deputy sheriffs concerning Mac’s Pub. Let’s be very clear, Mr. Presti is not the victim here, the injured deputy sheriff is,” he added.

Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks

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