Monserrate Wins a Partial Victory -- But He's Not Out of the Woods Yet

What's next Monserrate's bag of tricks

By Gabe Pressman
|  Thursday, Oct 15, 2009  |  Updated 6:45 PM EDT
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Monserrate Wins a Partial Victory -- But He's Not Out of the Woods Yet

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sen. Hiram Monserrate, D-Queens, walks in a hallway at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., Wednesday, June 10, 2009.

Senator Hiram Monserrate, the controversial senator from Queens, has won a partial victory. A judge found him not guilty of two serious charges -- both felonies -- in the slashing of his girlfriend. But he was found guilty of a lesser, misdemeanor charge for dragging his girlfriend through the lobby of their apartment house and then driving her to a far away hospital. 

  The State Senate will still consider whether further "disciplinary action" will be taken. For the controversial senator from Queens, though, it's another chapter in a turbulent life.
 
Going back to December 19, security cameras recorded Monserrate hauling his wounded girlfriend through the lobby as she tried to ring a neighbor's bell and hang on to a banister. Both Monserrate and his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, insisted  he did not deliberately slash her with a broken glass -- that it was an accident. A grand jury indicted him for slashing her face -- but Giraldo  refused to testify against him.
 
In domestic violence cases, women often refuse to testify against their boyfriends or husbands. That's a classic pattern. But, in fairness to Monserrate, a judge has found him not guilty of the most serious charges.               

Yet, he's not out of the woods. He still might have a rough time in Albany, if the State Senate decides on disciplinary action. Some senators would like to see him get his -- for antics unconnected with the criminal case.
 
Early this year, in Albany, Monserrate earned a different kind of notoriety. He forged an alliance with Bronx Senator Espada Jr. and they deserted the Democratic Party to join the Republicans in the narrowly divided Senate. The GOP then took control amid angry denunciations by the Democrats.
 
Espada was voted the new Senate president as part of a deal with the Republicans. Both Espada and Monserrate were denounced as traitors by their fellow Democrats and, if you consider Benedict Arnold the standard for traitors, indeed they were. Governor Patterson called what happened "a power grab... despicable." While Espada called it a new beginning of "bipartisan government."
 
I knew Monserrate back in the 1990s when, in the basement of a house in Queens, he helped organize the Latino Officers Association to represent Latino officers in the NYPD. He was sharp, clever. As one Democratic leader said: "He's always been a firebrand. We know he can incite people to action with speeches and his rhetoric."

Once, he publicly criticized the NYPD following the killing of a civilian by a fellow cop. He also called the Queens District Attorney, Richard Brown, "reprehensible" for his handling of a separate murder case. Brown retorted that Monserrate "should be ashamed of himself."

Many people in the political world today would agree with Brown. They think the senator is, at worst, sleazy; at best, an opportunist. What will happen next in this scenario of politics, violence and treachery is hard to say. But, it's probable that Hiram Monserrate will be front and center again.

No matter what happens, he doesn't shun the spotlight. It's in his DNA. Indeed, he loves it.

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