NY State Senator charged with assault

March 23, 2009 6:10:39 PM PDT
A state senator who was recently sworn in to office despite allegations he slashed his girlfriend's face with a piece of broken glass in a jealous rage has been indicted on domestic assault charges, prosecutors said Monday. A grand jury in Queens indicted Hiram Monserrate on three counts of second-degree felony assault and three counts of third-degree misdemeanor assault. He faces seven years in prison on the most serious of the charges.

Monserrate, a freshman Democrat in Albany on Monday for a legislative session, released a statement saying he did not commit a crime.

"I've said all along this was an accident. The district attorney's politically motivated decision to pursue this case doesn't change the fact that this was an accident," he said.

His attorneys will seek an independent prosecutor because they believe Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown is biased.

After a closed-door meeting with fellow Democrats in Albany Monday, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said Monserrate asked to temporarily step down as chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee. Smith had already withheld Monserrate's $12,500 stipend until the criminal case concluded. Monserrate will retain all his other duties and collect his $79,500 base pay plus daily stipends when he's in Albany of about $150 a day.

The 41-year-old former police officer was arrested after Karla Giraldo's face was slashed on Dec. 19 at his New York City home. The gash over her eye required 25 stitches. Both said the incident was an accident.

Monserrate told police that he tripped while holding a glass of water and that the glass accidentally hit her.

But authorities say evidence, including surveillance videos, painted a more violent picture of a heated argument and a frightened, bleeding woman in distress. Investigators say Monserrate smashed her face with broken glass because he thought she was also dating a police officer.

According to the police report, Giraldo, 29, initially said she was assaulted, then changed her account after learning officers planned to arrest him. She later filed a statement with police saying she did not wish to press charges.

Meanwhile, Monserrate was sworn in to office in January, part of an influx of new lawmakers who helped Democrats gain control of the Senate for the first time in four decades.

Some lawmakers and women's groups criticized the decision to seat the Democrat, saying he should not be sworn in until the criminal case was resolved.


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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