Monserrate's acquittal sparks anger; Pol dodges felony charge in abuse case
State Sen. Hiram Monserrate leaves court on Thursday. (Photo: AP)
Outrage over the acquittal Thursday of state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) on felony charges of slashing his girlfriend quickly turned into calls for his colleagues to boot him from office.
“They need to expel him,” said Marcia Pappas, state president of the National Organization for Women. “The Democratic leadership needs to send a strong message to the women of New York state that they care about protecting women.”
Asked during an interview on NY1 about the possibility of being removed from office, Monserrate said, “I’m not concerned about that.”
Monserrate, 42, was convicted by Judge William Erlbaum on a misdemeanor assault charge for injuring girlfriend Karla Giraldo but got off on the more serious charge of second-degree felony assault.
“It’s just another example of how abuse of women is condoned and accepted,” said Assemb. Patricia Eddington (D-Suffolk), who wrote a letter to Erlbaum before the verdict asking for the maximum penalty. “I don’t think he should be permitted to be a senator.”
If he had been convicted of a felony, Monserrate would have been ousted. Now, punishment is essentially in the hands of the Democratic leadership.
He can be removed from office by a simple majority vote, stripped of his committee chairmanship or censured.
Sen. John Sampson, the conference leader, said disciplinary action is being considered. “The leaders of our conference are discussing the potential for further action by the Senate,” he said.
Prosecutors alleged Monserrate cut Giraldo in the face with a drinking glass after flying into a jealous rage at his apartment last December. But Giraldo, who needed at least 20 stitches in her injured face, backed up Monserrate’s version of events and testified that it was an accident.
When she arrived at the hospital on the night of the incident, Giraldo told a doctor and nurse that Monserrate slashed her face on purpose, according to testimony. It was only when she discovered Monserrate was going to be arrested that she changed her story, prosecutors argued.
“It seems like he got off too easily,” said Cassidy Flanagan, 25, of Brooklyn, when told of the result.
Monserrate was convicted on the lesser charge — which could land him in jail for a year when he is sentenced on Dec. 4 — of grabbing her by the arm in the hallway, which was caught on a surveillance tape and shown at trial.
“A terrible accident occurred to my girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, a person that I love, and I have to live with that forever,” Monserrate, who opted for a non-jury trial, told reporters Thursday after the verdict. “There are no winners here.”
If Monserrate remains in the Senate but goes to jail, it is unclear what would happen.
Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said such a scenario would be “unprecedented in modern times.”
“Obviously he can’t vote from jail,” Horner said.