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!
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