It was a crucial courtroom exchange that could have saved the life of Queens nurse Samantha Stewart.
On July 1, Stewart’s confessed killer Danueal Drayton stood before a Nassau County judge for his arraignment on charges he violently choked an ex-girlfriend in a Long Island park.
According to a transcript of the hearing obtained by the Daily News, the prosecutor mistakenly advised the court Drayton had zero criminal history, setting the stage for his release and deadly rampage.
“People do acknowledge the defendant does have no contacts with the criminal justice system,” Deputy District Attorney John Vitagliano told the judge.
In reality, Drayton had at least three prior arrests in Connecticut, all of them involving violence against women.
In one case, he was convicted of strangling a girlfriend until she passed out on Thanksgiving Day in 2011.
He later pleaded no contest to brutally assaulting that same girlfriend on March 29, 2012.
Drayton was still on probation in Connecticut at the time he assaulted ex-girlfriend Zynea Barney on June 13 at an Inwood park across from Jamaica Bay near Kennedy Airport.
His name was even entered in a national database for law enforcement, Connecticut officials told the Hartford Courant.
Uninformed about Drayton’s disturbing past, the judge at the July 1 hearing set his bail at $2,000.
Operating under the same scenario on July 5, Judge Erica Prager set Drayton free without bail — even being told he’d sent a Facebook message to Barney threatening to cut her brakes, set her car on fire “or blow it up,” the transcript shows.
Twelve days after that, Stewart’s devastated family members found her strangled and battered body in her Queens residence. NYPD detectives quickly traced the grisly slaying to Drayton.
In a jailhouse interview with The News on Tuesday, Drayton confessed to the murder but said he was compelled to kill by “voices” in his head.
Barney said she was stunned prosecutors didn’t seem to know Drayton was a practiced predator.
She said the cops who investigated her claims against Drayton spoke with her about his criminal record just hours after he attacked her inside her car.
Barney, 26, said the officers specifically mentioned Drayton’s rap sheet in Connecticut.
She had looked it up herself online when her months-long relationship with Drayton turned weird, she said.
“He’s known to do this,” one of the officers told her, Barney said.
“They said he was a very dangerous man. All the cops knew. They even told my landlord how dangerous he was. That’s why my landlord purchased a camera (for) the front porch,” she told The News.
The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the Nassau Police Department didn’t respond Wednesday when The News asked if they had checked for prior out-of-state arrests before Drayton’s arraignment.
Drayton, 27, told The News Tuesday that after he strangled Stewart, he used her credit card to buy a ticket to California and then attacked another woman inside her apartment in North Hollywood.
He strangled and sexually assaulted the 28-year-old woman during a two-day ordeal before he was arrested July 23, Los Angeles County prosecutors said.
Drayton has been charged with attempted murder, forcible rape, false imprisonment by violence and sexual penetration by foreign object, the L.A. prosecutors said.
He pleaded not guilty Monday through a public defender and faces more than 23 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged.
Tears streamed down Drayton’s face as he claimed to The News he can’t control himself when the “voices” command him to harm others.
He said suffers from both schizophrenia and bipolar II disorder and considers himself a “passenger” in his own body.
An arrest warrant affidavit signed last January by an officer with the New Haven Police Department made reference to Drayton’s alleged diagnosis, but other law enforcement questioned the history of mental illness.
“Drayton is diagnosed as a Schizophrenic and is supposed to take medication,” the affidavit signed by Officer Maegan Moran and obtained by The News said.
Moran appeared to be basing the statement on an interview with a former friend who claimed Drayton threatened his life over the phone and in a Facebook message.
The friend told police in January that Drayton stopped taking his medication at the end of December.
Court paperwork detailing Drayton’s 2011 attack on his former girlfriend included a terrifying account of the killer lying and crying on cue.
In her statement to police, the woman recalled Drayton waking her up at 4 a.m. that Thanksgiving to continue an argument over her decision to end their relationship.
“He was terrorizing me and not letting me fall asleep,” the woman said in the Connecticut court filing obtained by The News.
“He started pummeling me in my face. Swing after swing after swing, to the point my body went into shock,” she said, according to the police report. “He grabbed me from behind and started strangulating me with his arms, and within seconds, I passed out.”
She said when she woke up, she lied and claimed to not remember what had happened. She recalled Drayton telling her she fell down the stairs and also got attacked by a “mugger” in downtown New Haven.
When the woman went along with Drayton’s lie, he agreed to call 911 and get her medical attention, she said.
When the paramedics arrived, Drayton turned on the crocodile tears, she said.
“He put on a show, crying, telling them false information as to what really happened,” the unidentified woman told police, according to the report.
She said it wasn’t until police got her alone that she was able to tell the truth — that she was “beaten and almost killed” by Drayton.
Barney said Wednesday that she was flabbergasted to learn Nassau County prosecutors never brought up Drayton’s Connecticut cases during his arraignment.
“If I’m a regular citizen and I can get access to his criminal record, how can you guys fail to do so?” she asked with dismay.
“The system failed,” she said, adding that the first time she learned of Drayton’s July 5 jail release was when she heard about his California arrest over the news.
She said officials from the DA’s office have called her twice since the arrest and said someone dropped the ball by not alerting her he was back on the loose.
“They said, ‘Oh my God, you were supposed to be informed,’” Barney said.
Contemplating Stewart’s death, she drew a chilling conclusion.