N.Y. state senator's assault case provokes outrage

Saturday, January 10, 2009

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Women's groups are outraged that a freshman New York state senator was sworn in this week while facing charges that he slashed his girlfriend's face with a piece of broken glass in a jealous rage.

Hiram Monserrate was charged with assault and weapon possession after Karla Giraldo's face was cut Dec. 19 at his New York City home. The gash over her eye required 25 stitches.

After he joined the Senate on Wednesday, Monserrate was appointed chairman of the Consumer Protection Committee with a stipend of about $12,500 on top of the nearly $80,000 base salary.

Marcia Pappas, head of the state chapter of NOW, called Monserrate's swearing in "a slap in the face." She said the new Democratic Senate leadership should address the issue.

"If our leaders insist on seating Monserrate as chair, this proves they are either insufficiently educated on the issue or worse, do not care," Pappas said in a written statement.

A spokesman for new Democratic leaders in the Senate said they're considering all appropriate options.

Patti Jo Newell, the director of public policy for the New York state Coalition Against Domestic Violence, acknowledged that Monserrate hasn't been found guilty, but criticized the new Democratic majority in the state Senate for not waiting until the criminal case is settled before seating the freshman Democrat.

"We are at a historic change within the New York state Senate ... to wait and see what happens with his case should not be too disruptive, but instead he's been given a chair and been sworn in, and that has cast a shadow," Newell said.

Both Monserrate and his girlfriend have said the incident was an accident. The lawmaker told police he tripped while holding a glass of water and that the glass accidentally hit her.

But authorities say the evidence, including surveillance videos, paints 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.

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

The Queens district attorney's office said the case is pending.

On the Net: www.NOWNYS.org

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