Hiram Monserrate will learn whether or not he's headed to jail -- and losing his seat in the State Senate -- on Thursday, when a judge makes a final ruling in his domestic abuse trial.
In closing arguments today, defense attorneys said Monserrate risked his reputation to take care of his injured girlfriend. Monserrate took Karla Giraldo, bleeding and hysterical, to a hospital and stayed there with her as she received treatment, though people recognized him and made assumptions about what had happened, Joseph Tacopina said.
"They didn't go see a fixer," Tacopina said in his closing arguments. "He didn't call for one of his aides. ... If he were not 'Senator' Monserrate, would these actions even be questioned?"
After his arrest on second-degree assault charges for allegedly slicing Giraldo's face with glass during a jealousy-fueled argument, he tried to comfort Giraldo, telling her in soothing tones to go back to her hospital bed.
"That is not the action of an abuser," Tacopina said.
Monserrate faces up to seven years in prison and the loss of his Senate seat if convicted. He pleaded not guilty and says the incident Dec. 19 at his apartment was an accident, as does Giraldo. Prosecutors say she changed her story after she learned he was going to be arrested. The wound around her left eye required 20 to 40 stitches, according to witness testimony.
Tacopina, using a high-tech slideshow, dissected frame-by-frame the grainy surveillance footage pivotal to the prosecution's argument to offer an alternative suggestion: Monserrate used force, not violence, to get Giraldo out of the building and to a hospital. She didn't want to go because she was vain and worried about what her face would look like if it was touched by anyone other than her plastic surgeon.
The surveillance footage shows Monserrate grabbing Giraldo and shoving her outside as she latches onto door frames and stairwell railings, screaming and crying.
Tacopina devoted much of his time to discrediting the medical personnel who first saw Giraldo at Long Island Jewish Hospital, arguing the women, a doctor and a nurse, were predisposed to believe Giraldo had been abused. They doctored their notes to reflect their misconceptions. He argued that Giraldo didn't speak English well enough and the two witnesses didn't understand her when she tried to explain what happened.
"They didn't understand her, not the other way around," Tacopina said.
Giraldo testified earlier in the case through a translator and gave a rambling and often contradictory account of what happened. Assistant District Attorney Scott Kessler sought to consider her a hostile witness, but the judge refused.
If Monserrate loses his seat, it would leave Democrats with a 31-30 majority until the seat is filled. The governor would call for a special election to fill the seat for the 14 months left in the term.
Judge William Erlbaum, who is deciding the case without a jury, says he will announce decision in open court at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday.