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State Sen. Hiram Monserrate’s (D-East Elmhurst) fate will likely be decided Thursday afternoon after both sides finished closing arguments in Queens Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon.
Monserrate, 42, faces assault charges for allegedly slashing his girlfriend in the face with a broken glass during a fight in December. Judge William Erlbaum said he would probably have a verdict at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the non-jury trial.
Monserrate got into a fight with his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, on Dec. 19, 2008, when he found another man’s police union card in her purse. He threw the card down an incinerator chute in his hallway, causing Giraldo to rush toward the chute to retrieve it. After that, prosecutors allege, the couple continued to fight for two hours before Giraldo asked for a glass of water and Monserrate shoved the glass in her face.
Defense attorney Joseph Tacopina has said Monserrate took the glass of water to a drunken Giraldo, who was half-asleep on his bed. Monserrate tripped and spilled some of the water on Giraldo, who shot upright and collided with the glass in his hand, Tacopina argued.
Medical staff who treated Giraldo testified she had told them her injuries were not an accident and that Monserrate had attacked her. Tacopina contended the doctors and nurses either misinterpreted Giraldo’s statements or acted together in an attempt to bring down the senator.
There were few surprises Tuesday as prosecutor Scott Kessler and Tacopina took three hours each to rehash their cases.
“One’s feelings, one’s suspicions, one’s instincts are not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Tacopina said, maintaining Giraldo’s injuries were accidental and Monserrate used “reasonable force” to get his panicked girlfriend to a hospital. “An intellectual, logical analysis will reach one conclusion: that the prosecution has failed in its burden.”
Kessler, whose courtroom demeanor is typically more reserved than Tacopina, took a flamboyant approach to his closing statements.
He said Monserrate took the time to change out of a bloody shirt before taking Giraldo to the hospital, contrasting him to First Lady Jackie Kennedy, who stood by as Lyndon Johnson took the presidential oath of office in a dress still stained with her husband’s blood.
Later Kessler said a facialist Giraldo called from the car was really Monserrate’s attempt to find medical care for her without taking her to a hospital.
“Neffie Toro is his Dr. Mudd,” he said, referring to the physician who treated John Wilkes Booth’s leg after he assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
“You’ve already got a reference in to a 1963 presidential assassination,” Erlbaum mused.
If convicted of felony assault, Monserrate faces up to seven years in prison. He would be forced to resign from the state Senate, leaving the Democrats with a single-vote majority over Republicans.
Monserrate opted for a bench trial after Tacopina feared the camera footage from Monserrate’s apartment building would bias jurors despite the fact it does not show how Giraldo got her injury.
The three-week trial was mostly a quiet affair punctuated by Giraldo’s tears upon viewing the security footage of her rushing down the stairs of Monserrate’s apartment with him hot on her heels. The courtroom got another jolt the first day of testimony when Monserrate’s downstairs neighbor chose to vocalize the scream she said she heard the night of Giraldo’s injury instead of merely describing it.
Giraldo testified she was drunk that night — contradicting her grand jury testimony — and afraid of hospitals and needles, causing her to resist Monserrate’s efforts to take her there.
Kessler got her to admit on the stand that she had had more than one elective surgery, though none to her face.
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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