Monserrate trial opens in New York

September 21, 2009 3:16:49 PM PDT
A prosecutor says a domestic abuse case against a New York state senator is about "power and control." State Senator Hiram Monserrate, not one to be silent, is now tight lipped as he enters the Queens courthouse on trial for allegedly slashing his girlfriend.

"This case is about power and control," prosecutor Scott kKessler fired off in his opening statement.

In Monserrate's apartment, prosecutors claim a fight erupted between he and his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo. Kessler said in opening arguments Monday that Monserrate was angry because his girlfriend had another man's cell phone and union card.

Surveillance cameras in the hallway, the prosecutor says, caught the first confrontation. The pair went back in the apartment and continued to argue loudly.

"In those two hours, he's still angry and he's still fighting," the prosecutor said. "This is a non-stop fight."

At one point, the senator is asked by his girlfriend to get her a glass of water.

"He hands the glass to her," the prosecutor explained. "Then the defendant says, 'You want the water? You want the water?' And he takes that glass and shoves it against her face. The glass breaks in his hand and a sharp piece cuts deep into her skin."

Monserrate was arrested after Giraldo, according to the prosecutor, later told doctors, "I can't believe he did this to me. My face. My face. It wasn't an accident. We were fighting and he cut my face."

Defense attorney Joseph Tacopina claims that on a bed in a dark room, Giraldo asked for the glass of water. He says Monserrate brought it to her, tripped and splashed water onto her. Both Monserrate and his girlfriend, according to the defense attorney, now claim it was an accident.

"Without a witness, and a witness who recanted before a grand jury, there is no case at all," Tacopina said.

State Supreme Court Justice William Erlbaum is hearing the case in Queens.

Monserrate faces prison and the loss of his senate seat if convicted on the top charge.

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