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Karla, your lies couldn’t save Hiram’s job

Hiram Monserrate was expelled from the New York State Senate last night (February 9, 2010) for behavior “not compatible with his oath of office.”

Mr. Monserrate represented the 13th District in Queens, New York.  He is one of the Democrats whose defection to the Republicans last June, handed control briefly to the Republicans and threw Albany into gridlock.

On December 19, 2008, Monserrate was arrested and accused of slashing girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, in the face with broken glass during an argument in his Jackson Heights apartment. He was arraigned the same day and pleaded not guilty to the charges of second-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon.

Records show that Giraldo arrived at Long Island Jewish Hospital on December 19, 2008 with lacerations to her face which required between 20 and 40 stitches.  A doctor and a nurse testified that Ms. Giraldo originally told them that the senator hit her with a beer bottle during an argument.

Monserrate’s attorneys chose to have Monserrate tried by a judge in a bench trial as opposed to a jury of his peers.  At the trial, the prosecution argued that Monserrate, a former police officer, became enraged when on the morning of December 19, he found another man’s card in his girlfriend’s possession. They argued and the surveillance video showed him going out into his hallway and throwing the card down a garbage chute while being pursued by Giraldo.

Moments later, a surveillance tape showed Giraldo leaving the apartment, holding a towel to her face, going to a neighbor’s apartment, and being grabbed by Monserrate.  Some time later, a vestibule camera recorded Monserrate pushing and pulling Giraldo through his lobby. At one point in the building vestibule, the expression on Giraldo’s face suggested anguish and pain. Then, outside, Monserrate continued to propel her away from the building.

However, Giraldo later recanted her story of violence and had to be subpoenaed to testify.  Testifying in Spanish through an interpreter, Ms. Giraldo said, “He was not dragging me.  He never hurt me or did anything to me. He was pulling me for my own good, and thanks to him I’m all right and my face is all right.”

Notwithstanding Giraldo’s efforts to save Monserrate’s career, he was convicted on October 15, 2009 of one count of misdemeanor assault.  He was later sentenced to three years probation, 250 hours of community service, and one year of domestic abuse counseling. However, he was acquitted of a more serious felony charge.  A conviction on the felony charge would have automatically expelled him from the Senate.

A committee of the State Senate made disciplinary recommendations to the entire Senate for his censure or expulsion. The State Senate voted 53 to 8 to expel Monserrate, making him the first sitting state lawmaker expelled since 1861.

There were many attempts to protect Monserrate’s career.  From Giraldo’s recantation, to the decision of his attorneys to have a bench trial instead of a jury trial, to the misdemeanor conviction handed down by Justice Earlbaum which was a slap on the wrist.  However, those efforts were all in vain.  Monserrate must now deal with his violent temperament and accept the blame for his own downfall.

Karla must also come to grips with reality.  Unless, Monserrate gets the help he needs, he will continue to abuse women.  And unless Karla gets the help she needs, she will continue to attract abusive men.

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