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As state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) took office last week and was appointed to a powerful chairmanship, a major women’s rights organization criticized the state Legislature for its reaction to charges that Monserrate slashed his girlfriend’s face with a broken glass during an argument last month.
The state chapter of the National Organization for Women said Monserrate does not deserve a seat in the Senate and called his appointment as chairman of that body’s Consumer Protection Committee “a slap in the face for every woman in New York state.”
“Domestic violence is a crime,” NOW spokeswoman Marcia Pappas said in a news release. “No person should be awarded a position of power while such heinous charges are pending.”
Monserrate responded to the criticism by declining the $12,500 salary bonus the chairmanship entails until the charges have been cleared.
“We need the committee’s work to go forward, and Sen. Monserrate’s participation is necessary to achieving that goal,” Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans) said in a statement.
Monserrate, who ran unopposed for the seat in the 2008 election, denied the charges. His girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, also publicly recanted the version of events she told police after doctors at Long Island Jewish Hospital treated her Dec. 18, claiming he fell into her while walking into the bedroom with a glass of water.
Monserrate was charged with assault by the Queens district attorney’s office. His next court date is Friday.
NOW called on Gov. David Paterson, Smith and state Assembly leader Sheldon Silver (D−Manhattan) to “take appropriate steps to address this problem.”
“If they do not, they are also guilty,” the release stated.
Smith refrained from any accusatory rhetoric when discussing Monserrate on Friday.
“He’s innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “We understand this is a serious matter. Nobody accepts violence against anyone, but at the same time we want to let the process play itself out.”
On Dec. 22, Democratic District Leader Martha Flores−Vasquez, whose domestic violence hotline has received funding from Monserrate, held a rally outside Monserrate’s office, contending that he did not fit the profile of a domestic violence abuser.
Flores−Vasquez also said police can often push a suspected victim to admit to something that was not true.
“Sometimes they can put pressure on someone and then it’s very easy to make a story of something that doesn’t exist,” Vasquez said. “The culture and the background of Hiram Monserrate are not violent. He did not deserve to be treated like a criminal.”
Pappas disagreed with Flores−Vasquez’s assessment of Giraldo’s behavior.
“Sadly, this is [a] typical pattern for domestic violence victims, who retract their stories in fear of retribution,” she said. “The problem usually escalates and the women do not fare well.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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