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Monserrate Must Go

The state Senate is facing a test of its character and the sincerity of its commitment against domestic violence. The question before the Senate is whether or not Councilman Hiram Monserrate should take the oath of office when it reconvenes in January.

In December, Monserrate was charged with stabbing his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, in the face with a broken glass during an argument. Giraldo wound up in the emergency room with a black eye and a cut that required 20 stitches.

Republicans say Monserrate is morally unfit to serve; Democrats counter that the charges remain unproven allegations. If Monserrate is convicted of a felony, he will be removed from office. What happens could affect the balance of power in the Senate. Monserrate’s election last fall would have given the Democrats a majority for the first time in years.

But politics should not be the decisive factor here. Monserrate has been accused of a morally reprehensible crime. If he fights the arrest in court, it could take a year or more before a trial begins. Unless the Senate acts, during that time Monserrate would serve as a senator. If that happens, the Senate’s stand against domestic violence will be compromised.

In a court of law, Monserrate is innocent until proven guilty. On his attorney’s advice, Monserrate has refused to discuss the incident with the press. His comments have been limited to a statement declaring his innocence.

That is his right, but as a senator−elect and councilman who has taken a strong stand against domestic violence, he has a moral responsibility to explain his actions to his constituents.

The following facts are not in dispute: Monserrate was with Giraldo in his Jackson Heights apartment when the injury occurred. The victim originally told the hospital and police that she was struck by Monserrate. The councilman decided to drive Giraldo to the emergency room at Long Island Jewish Hospital on the Queens−Nassau county border, even though he lives five blocks from Elmhurst Hospital.

These facts raise questions about his moral character. Until they can be explained, the councilman should not be allowed to take his Senate seat. If that interferes with his legal defense, he can mount that defense as a private citizen. If blocking him from taking his oath affects the balance of power in the Senate, so be it.

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