State Sen. Monserrate Trial Begins Monday

Good luck, Joe! That's to my pal Joe Tacopina who is defending NY State Senator Hiram Monserrate against some ugly charges -- the state alleges he slashed his girlfriend's face with broken glass. Trial begins Monday.

Monserrate has turned down a misdemeanor plea deal, which would have allowed him to plead to reckless assault and keep his Senate seat. Why? Joe says he's innocent. (My earlier post on the case is here.)[More...]


If a jury finds him guilty on any of three counts of felony assault, the freshman senator and former cop faces seven years in prison and would automatically lose his seat.

"Hiram is innocent and we're ready to go to trial," defense lawyer Joe Tacopina said yesterday.

The victim apparently is backing Monserrate, which should make for an interesting trial.

Monserrate, 42, and his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, 29, have repeatedly insisted the Dec. 19 incident, in which she suffered a black eye and a gash that needed 20 stitches, was a freak accident, and not the result of an attack.

They have claimed that Monserrate tripped and fell on top of her while she was in bed, and as he did so, a glass he was holding shattered in his hand and cut her face.

The News obtained secret grand jury transcripts (funny how the media always does that. It never sits right with me.)

In portions of the secret grand jury minutes obtained by the Daily News, Giraldo claims that when she and Monserrate arrived at Long Island Jewish Hospital that night, she told a nurse: "Hiram was with me and I had an accident . . .

"But when they realized he was a politician, that's when the nightmare began . . .They started gossiping and calling the police."

She even accused hospital staff of refusing to "clean the blood from my face." Once police arrived, Giraldo testified, "they harassed me with questions with some bad intentions . . . about Mr. Monserrate," while she was under a local anesthetic.

How does Joe get around a video of Monserrate and Giraldo leaving his apartment building which the Judge said "made his blood boil?" The video hasn't been publicly released but will be "Exhibit A" at the trial.

Tacopina, the high-powered lawyer who successfully defended cops in both the Abner Louima and Patrick Dorismond cases, claims police "spliced" together only a few minutes of video.

There are other "relevant portions" during a two-hour span that are favorable to his client, yet the rest of the tape has somehow disappeared, Tacopina said.

If anyone can get an acquittal in this case, it's Joe. Since defense lawyers don't often turn down misdemeanor offers in violent crime cases (it's too risky) he must have a good case. I'll bet it's solid impeachment evidence against the hospital workers and others who assumed she had been the victim of a domestic violence assault. A tape expert who will testify the tape was spliced would be pretty good, too.

The couple's version of what happened doesn't sound too far-fetched to me. I had a similar thing happen to me in law school. One night I was standing in my kitchen with a date drinking a glass of wine. We were laughing and I made some comment and he raised the wine glass (in fun) like he was going to spill it on on my head. I raised my hand to block it but ended up hitting the wine glass which shattered into my forehead. We raced to the hospital ER and I had 15 stitches. The surgeon did a great job, the scar was no longer than an inch and not visible after a few months. Glass shatters. Accidents happen.

An Indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Good luck, Joe!

< Judge Says Blogger Andrew Sullivan Got Preferential Treatment in Pot Case | Sunday Morning Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Wouldn't be the first time (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 07:41:23 AM EST
    hospital staff have jumped to the conclusion of domestic assault, but it also wouldn't be the first time a victim of domestic assault ended up denying an assault had happened.

    My elderly mother once late at night tripped on her too long nightgown hem and fell hard face first against the narrow side of an open door.  By the time she called me and I got her to the emergency room, her whole head was swollen to the size of a beach ball. (She had fractured a cheekbone and the aspirin she'd been taking meant she bled like crazy into the tissues of her head and neck.)

    Never even occurred to me until the ER people started giving me the fish-eye that the story looked like a classic situation of elder abuse.  I don't know to this day why they finally climbed down from the idea, but it was certainly touch-and-go for a while whether they were going to call the police.

    It's not clear to me that prosecutors ought to prosecute a case like this without the consent of the supposed victim if there's no prior history.  These peculiar accidents do happen.

    Clarifications of Timeline W/a Political Opinion (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by msaroff on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:13:50 AM EST
    The accusation and investigation predate his participation in the Senate coup.

    Also, while I have no knowledge of the facts in the criminal case, I have followed what happened in the State Senate, and while Monserrate is a more savory character than Pedro Espada Jr., hell Dick Cheney is a more savory character than Pedro Espada Jr., Monserrate is still pond scum for his political activities.

    Assuming, as one should in our system of jurisprudence, that he is completely innocent of all charges related to domestic abuse, I still hope that the next election sees a permanent removal of him from the world of New York State politics.

    The prosecutors are prosecuting (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 09:41:10 AM EST
    for two reasons - neither one good.

    First, they are backing the cops, rather than pursuing justice.  If the tape which makes the blood boil has been spliced or messed with, they should have thrown it out.

    Second, it's political.  Remember, Monserrate was one of the Democratic NY State senators who pitched Albany into a gridlock this summer when they decided to side with the Republicans and turn control of the senate over to them.  They turned a 32-30 Dem advantage to a (30+3)-29 Republican advantage.  The deal was that the leader of the coup, a senator from the Bronx who's perpetually under investigation after allegations of not living in his district, diverting mountains of campaign cash (directly or indirectly) into his pockets and getting no-show jobs for relatives (among other things) was made the boss of the Senate (I forget the exact title) by a majority vote of the Repugs and the 3 line-crossing Dems.  Monserrate was the first of the three to cross back to give the Dems control - right about the time the case started heating up in anticipation of trial.

    And, also remember that, before anyone goes talking about Morgenthau in connection with this case, the case is in Queens, and that's outside Morgenthau's jurisdiction.  He and his office have nothing to do with it.

    Sorry (none / 0) (#3)
    by Randinho on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:09:41 AM EST
    Monserrate (full disclosure: I live in his district) took his girlfriend to Long Island Jewish Hospital in New Hyde Park, a twenty-two minute car ride in light traffic.

    Elmhurst Hospital is less than a mile away. Sorry, but I believe he has something to hide and I'm curious to see how that gets explained away.

    Jeralyn, I hope your friend took you to the nearest hospital.

    Scribe, Monserrate is a former cop. Absent any evidence that the tape has been spliced (and Taccopina's claims in and of themselves are not evidence) one should withhold judgment about both Monserrate's guilt or innocence and the veracity of the evidence.

    yes, I went to the nearest hospital, but (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:36:22 AM EST
    I was 22 and didn't know any better. Had it happened recently, you can be sure I would have tracked down my doctor to get the names of plastic surgeons and find out who was available that night and then gone to the hospital he or she used -- even if it was another 1/2 hour drive.

    In the 90's, I had a worse accident at the Four Seasons hotel in London, and while waiting for the ambulance, I called my doctor in Denver for the name of a plastic surgeon in London. Because they had socialized medecine, it made no difference. I had to go to their designated hospital and was not allowed to request a specific doctor or a plastic surgeon. (Happily, the young doctor who sewed me up was able to use butterflys instead of stitches and did a fabulous job -- no remaining scars.)

    Bottom line: When it's your face, you try to get the best doctor in advance and go where they are.


    I Don't Give Him a Pass on This (none / 0) (#9)
    by Randinho on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:56:54 AM EST
    Elmhurst is an excellent hospital. I believe he avoided it because he knew people would know who he was.

    If I was bleeding from the face I'd go to the nearest place and then see a plastic surgeon.

    He drove out of NYC to Long Island. If he didn't like Elmhurst he could have driven to closer places like Lenox Hill, New York Hospital, Columbia Presbyterian, Beth Israel, Mount Sinai, etc., all of which were much closer than Long Island Jewish.

    IMHO he was trying to hide something.


    I'm sure (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 12:08:20 PM EST
    Joe will bring out why he went to that hospital and think you should wait to hear the explanation before you say you don't buy it.

    I'm not going to keep hosting comments here that speculate in favor of guilt at the beginning of a trial. This site's mission is to preserve the rights of those accused of crime, I'm not going to contribute to the glut of guilt speculation on the internet which could prejudice him.

    You've made your point. Now if you want to continue to discuss your belief he's guilty, before the trial has begun and a shred of evidence has been presented, please do it elsewhere.


    With Respect (5.00 / 0) (#11)
    by Randinho on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 12:28:15 PM EST

    With respect, I'm merely doing what most commenters do and speculate with regard to the facts of the case. I have no opinion on his guilt or innocence. I merely brought out an issue that raises questions, much as Scribe did with regard to the cops and Scribe's claims as to the political nature of the prosecution.

    Surely you're not accusing me of trolling? I never said that I thought he was guilty; I merely raised an issue that deserves some explanation.

    That was, in fact, my last word on the subject. Jeez.


    No, he is presumed innocent (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:37:50 AM EST
    until and unless a jury decides otherwise. We should only withhold judgment as to his guilt.

    Doesn't Elmhurst have a Trama Unit? (none / 0) (#5)
    by nycstray on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:20:58 AM EST
    Yes (none / 0) (#8)
    by Randinho on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:47:46 AM EST
    It's one of the best in the city.