New York State Sen. Hiram Monserrate of Queens listens to his attorney Joe Tacopina outside Queens Criminal Court in the Queens borough of New York Monday, Sept. 14, 2009. He is accused of attacking his girlfriend with a broken bottle during an argument in December and may lose his senate seat if convicted.
Doctors are supposed to heal, but today state Sen. Hiram Monserrate got hurt by one.
Dr. Dawne Kort, who was working at Long Island Jewish Hospital the night Monserrate took his girlfriend Karla Giraldo to the the emergency room, said in court Thursday she clearly understood that the wounds on Giraldo's face were the result of a real fight, the NY Post reported.
"I can’t believe he did this to me. My face! My face! I can’t believe my face," Kort quoted Giraldo as saying.
Monserrate's defense claims that he accidentally hurt Giraldo when he tripped while holding a glass, which then hit her in the face -- she needed 40 stitches following the Dec. 19, 2008 incident.
But the prosecution contends that Monserrate flew into a rage after finding another man's number in his girlfriend's purse, then intentionally smashed Giraldo in the face with the glass.
Kort Thursday said when Giraldo arrived at the emergency room she told her Monserrate was "thrusting the glass forward -- angrily" when he attacked her, according to the Post. "She was upset... she was sobbing."
"She said many times it was not an accident. They were fighting and he took a piece of glass and cut her face," Kort said, noting that Giraldo never used the words "trip," "stumble" or "fall."
When Kort said she would contact authorities Giraldo said "No! No! You can't call the police."
Giraldo isn't cooperating with the prosecution and the defense team has said Kort didn't understand the native Ecuadorian's mix of Spanish and English.
But Kort told the judge that she is the daughter of a Panamanian father and a Puerto Rican mother -- and she studied the language in Spain -- so she is fluent.
Meanwhile, a state assemblywoman and dozens of others are trying to sway the judge in the domestic abuse trial -- a move considered highly improper because no jury is hearing the case.
Monserrate has pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault and waived his right to a jury. The trial, which started Monday, is being heard solely by state Supreme Court Judge William Erlbaum, who said he's received dozens of letters and phone calls from people on both sides.
State Assemblywoman Patricia Eddington, who represents part of Long Island, sent the judge a letter on official letterhead requesting Monserrate get the maximum sentence. It was received Wednesday.
"I believe that the crime that Senator Monserrate has been arrested for is a hate crime," Eddington wrote. "It is time to put a stop to these acts of violence against women."
Judges are often petitioned, especially during sentencing, but rarely during trial and practically never during a bench trial because they must act as both judge and jury.
"It's highly improper," Jim Cohen, a criminal law professor at Fordham Law School, said about the petitions. "It's like getting a jury list and calling them up to try and influence them. It's just not done."
Cohen said it's unlikely Erlbaum has read the letters, just as jurors do not read media reports of a case.
Monserrate's attorney Joe Tacopina said he was outraged.
"She's a state lawmaker. To lobby the fact-finder during the trial ... it's so wrong from every level," he said, adding he was going to address the issue with the proper oversight committee.
Eddington, who says she's never met Monserrate, said from her home on Long Island that she meant no harm, and that as an elected official she often receives letters from constituents offering their opinions. She said she's sponsored a bill that would make domestic abuse a hate crime.
"The judge has a responsibility to use this as an example that mutilation or abuse or violence against woman won't be tolerated," she said.
Erlbaum is doing his best to stop the chatter. He denied a petition by TV reporters this week to place a camera in the courtroom, expressing concern he'd be recognized on the street and approached by people who wanted to talk about the case.
On Wednesday, he heard testimony from the plastic surgeon called by Giraldo, and Tuesday watched grainy surveillance footage that showed Monserrate grabbing her and shoving her out a door as she clung bleeding to the frame and screamed.
If convicted of second-degree assault, Monserrate will lose his Senate seat, but if he's convicted of a lesser charge of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, he could serve out his term.
Just weeks after the incident, Monserrate, a former city councilman, was sworn in to the state Senate. This summer, he and fellow Democrat Pedro Espada Jr. ignited a coup in the Senate by joining a Republican-dominated coalition that overthrew the majority, resulting in a month-long deadlock.