State Sen. Monserrate Waives Jury for Trial in Alleged Assault Case
Over the weekend, I wrote about the trial New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate, accusing of assaulting his girlfriend with broken glass. Jury selection was to begin today. Monserrate has turned down a misdemeanor plea, and he and his girlfriend maintain the incident was an accident. (Which provoked some strong responses in the comments section.) Background on the case is here.
This morning, Monserrate's attorney waived the jury and trial will begin next week to the Court.
Joe Tacopina, Monserrate's attorney (disclosure: he's also a good friend) says he believes the judge can be fair. The NY Times reports Joe said " a jury consultant and polls had convinced the defense that Mr. Monserrate could not get a fair trial before a jury anywhere in the state." He also, according to the Daily News, noted the jury would have had to walk past a gathering of domestic violence protesters every day. Today, one held a sign with a rat featuring Monserrate's head on top. After court, Joe said:[More...]
"It's a perfect storm. You have a politician, and then you have accusations of domestic violence, and we wanted to avoid jurors who won't hear the evidence and would not be able to see past the accusations," Tacopina said.
But what about the Judge presiding over the case, William Erilbaum, who has not given favorable signals to Monserrate so far:
Also, according to Joe,
Erlbaum recently weighed in on a videotape taken in the lobby of Monserrate's building that prosecutors say shows Monserrate "viciously and violently" yanking girlfriend Karla Giraldo, 29. Erlbaum said the tape, which has not been publicly aired, "causes the blood to boil." Monserrate lawyer Joseph Tacopina said he's confident Erlbaum will be able to decide the case fairly.
We're very confident on the facts and the law and I don't want any outside influences like biases, sympathy, predetermined beliefs, protesters, things of that nature interfering," Tacopina said.
... "I understand why people protest, but I have no tolerance for people who pretend to know the facts of a case when they know nothing about the case," Tacopina said.
We're that comfortable with the facts in this case. We're that comfortable with the law in this case. That we don't need anything but an impartial fact finder, and surely we have one today.
I wrote over the weekend that lawyers don't often turn down misdemeanors when faced with violent crimes, it's too risky. Nor do they often waive juries unless the details the jury will hear are so ugly they are likely to be swayed by them, the atmosphere surrounding the trial has been poisoned, or the defense is a very legal and technical one.
Given that Monserrate is facing three counts of felony assault and three counts of misdemeanor assault, what this tells me (and admittedly I have no personal knowledge of the case) is Monserrate has some really strong evidence impeaching the state's witnesses, some medical expert testimony of his own and there's something very fishy about the video. Maybe he has an expert who will testify it's been doctored. Otherwise, I think Monserrate would have taken the misdemeanor, which would have allowed him to keep his Senate seat and avoid serious jail time.
Now, Monserrate's going for broke, At least he picked the right lawyer for the job.
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