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State Sen. Hiram Monserrate and his attorney rolled the dice and won. Judge William Erlbaum ruled last Thursday afternoon that the Queens Democrat was not guilty of second-degree felony assault. He was accused of slashing the face of his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, with a broken glass.
He was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of third-degree assault for recklessly causing physical injury to Giraldo by dragging her though his apartment house lobby after she was cut. The verdict may mean Monserrate will be able to keep his Senate seat.
But the senators could pass a resolution to expel or censure him and political pressure is building for him to leave. That could affect the balance of power in the Senate, although a Queens Democrat would probably replace him.
Outside court after the verdict the senator said, “A terrible accident occurred to my girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, a person that I love, and I have to live with that forever. There were no winners here.”
He is no more believable now than he was on the night he drove Giraldo to a hospital on the Queens-Nassau border. She is like many victims of domestic violence — more than willing to forgive her alleged attacker.
No one should fault Erlbaum for the verdict. Monserrate’s lead lawyer did a masterful job of creating reasonable doubt. He did not have to prove his client was innocent, only that there was reasonable doubt about what happened that night. He found witnesses who said Giraldo was “a little tipsy” when she left a party before heading to Monserrate’s apartment. And he questioned why Giraldo’s statements accusing Monserrate were not included in the original hospital reports.
It seems unlikely Monserrate will go to jail. Hopefully, the judge will make him attend a program for people who engage in domestic violence. We suspect Giraldo needs help as well.
We had hoped a guilty verdict would send a message that domestic violence will not be tolerated in Queens. It is impossible to make a case if the alleged victim refuses to cooperate.
We remain unconvinced this was a “terrible accident.” We hope Monserrate knows he dodged a bullet and that he will make certain nothing like this happens again.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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