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State Democrats and Republicans have remained notably quiet following the arrest of state Sen.−elect Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) on assault charges last month, but friends and supporters of the embattled politician have rallied behind him.
Monserrate was arrested and arraigned on assault charges Dec. 19 for allegedly slashing his girlfriend across the face with a broken drinking glass in his Jackson Heights apartment. He has proclaimed his innocence and said he still plans to be sworn into the state Senate seat that he was elected to in November.
Although Monserrate serving in the Senate could mean that the Democrats gain a majority in the legislative body, the state Republican party has been fairly quiet about the matter. He is currently a city councilman.
State Sen. Martin Golden (R−Brooklyn) formally introduced a resolution he circulated immediately after Monserrate’s arrest calling for his seat to remain vacant until the legal issues are resolved, but it has thus far received a lukewarm reception.
“Democrats and Republicans, elected officials and others have called on him not to take office in the Senate. I am urging every member of the Senate, as well as newly elected members who will take office Jan. 1, to sign on in support of my resolution,” Golden said. “Members of the Senate should be held accountable to the highest standards of personal and moral conduct. Domestic violence charges are extremely serious and it’s important that everyone take a stand.”
State law allows Monserrate 30 days from Jan. 1 to file his oath of office, after which his seat would be declared vacant. But state Democratic officials said that while they are aware of the resolution, they contend the Republican leadership cannot legally prevent Monserrate from taking office before he is convicted of a crime.
Monserrate supporters — including domestic violence advocates and victims — have rallied in support of him since his arrest, calling the charges suspect and maintaining the Latino politician has too thick a moral fiber to commit an act of violence.
Fresh Meadows resident Judy Grossi, whose daughter dated Monserrate for nearly five years while he was a Marine, called the councilman a “teddy bear.”
“He was so good to my daughter, let me tell you. I always looked to Hiram like he was another one of my kids,” Grossi said. “He never had any nastiness to him whatsoever. He was very kind, very respectful. He was and still is a wonderful man.”
Grossi, a victim of domestic violence herself, said that the only time she witnessed Monserrate’s demeanor change was when he saw her husband hit her one night in her home.
“When Hiram came to pick up my daughter, one night my husband, he just whammed me in the face right in front of him, and Hiram, he just went off. He was chasing him around the table trying to fight him,” Grossi said. “He went all around the dining room table trying to grab him, holding up his fist and telling my husband to ‘be a man and come outside and fight.’ That was the only time I ever saw him angry.”
Monserrate faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of assault. He is due back in Queens Criminal Court Jan. 16.
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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