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Tough Test for the State Senate

The state Senate is on the brink of a decision that will test its ability to act with courage and integrity in judging the conduct of one of its own. A Senate committee has been investigating the behavior of Sen. Hiram Monserrate on a night a year ago when his girlfriend’s face was cut open by broken glass after a fight in his apartment.

He was acquitted of the most serious charges, but convicted of misdemeanor assault for violently pulling Karla Giraldo through the lobby of his apartment building. A draft of the committee’s final report concludes he behaved recklessly and callously in the moments after Giraldo was injured. He never called 911 but drove his girlfriend to a hospital on the Queens-Nassau border, passing several closer hospitals.

The report concludes Monserrate was more concerned about possible bad publicity than Giraldo’s health. Even if one believes Monserrate’s story that the incident itself was an accident, there is no way to justify his actions afterward. There is reason to question whether Monserrate should serve in the Senate.

Compare his situation with that of U.S. Army Spc. Osvaldo Hernandez, a Queens native convicted in 2002 of having an unregistered gun in his car. Hernandez is a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division who served 15 months in Afghanistan and may soon redeploy. His dream has been to join the NYPD, but he was turned down last year because of the arrest. Last week, Gov. David Paterson pardoned Hernandez, a move that will hopefully prompt the NYPD to reconsider his application.

Shouldn’t the standard for serving in the Senate be tougher than that for becoming a police officer? Hernandez at least admitted he made a mistake and has since served his country.

Monserrate has demonstrated little or no integrity in handling his incident. He failed to meet with the Senate panel after saying he would. He may be asked to work on legislation dealing with domestic violence. Is he the man who will protect the state’s battered women?

Forcing Monserrate to resign could affect the balance in the Senate. Taking that step would be difficult for Democrats on the panel. We hope they will make the right recommendation.

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