Sunday, December 21, 2008

Queens City Councilman Hiram Monserrate Arrested on Domestic Assault Charge by E Benjamin,W Cruz and A Lisberg, K Angelova and C Boyle - NY Daily News

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Hot-tempered city councilman Hiram Monserrate was accused of slashing his girlfriend's face with broken glass Friday, leaving her with 20 stitches and a black eye.

Photo: City Councilman Hiram Monserrate walks out of Queens Court after posting bail Friday. He was arrested on charges of assaulting his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo (below) with a shard of glass. Pace for News

Wearing black Adidas sweatpants, a Mets cap and a black wool jacket, the 41-year-old ex-cop from Elmhurst, Queens, looked weary as he stood before Judge Toko Sarita at his arraignment in Queens Criminal Court.

He did not speak during the brief hearing and was released on $2,500 cash bail after his lawyer, James Cullen, entered a not guilty plea.

Monserrate was charged with assault and weapons possession for allegedly attacking his girlfriend during a "boisterous argument," Queens District Attorney Scott Kessler said.

The city councilman claimed the injuries were accidental. "I brought her a glass of water, I leaned over and tripped," according to a statement read in court.

Kessler said Monserrate's girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, 29, first told hospital staff he broke a glass in his hand during a heated argument and stabbed her in the face with the shards. She later changed her story and said it was an accident.

"She doesn't want him to go to jail," Kessler said, adding that police found blood-soaked towels and broken glass in Monserrate's apartment. "She doesn't want protection."

But Sarita told Monserrate he cannot contact her and must stay at least 100 yards away.

Monserrate was elected to the state Senate last month and is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 1. He would automatically lose his seat if convicted of a felony.

Monserrate and Giraldo spent Thursday night with Caroline Kennedy and other luminaries at the Queens Museum of Art for the Queens Democratic Party's holiday dinner.

They argued afterward, possibly because a guest at the party confused Giraldo with another of Monserrate's girlfriends, one law enforcement source said.

The fight turned violent in Monserrate's Elmhurst condo about 1 a.m., when he broke a drinking glass in his right hand and struck her - almost taking out her left eye, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Photo: Karla Giraldo, with her face covered, is rushed into a waiting car by a Queens DA outside the courthouse. DeCrescenzo for News

Monserrate lives a few blocks from the trauma room at the city-run Elmhurst Hospital Center. But sources said he drove Giraldo 14 miles to Long Island Jewish Medical Center on the Nassau County line for treatment - and tried to get her to concoct an innocent explanation on the way.

A doctor interviewed Giraldo privately, then summoned the NYPD at 4:50 a.m., police sources said. Officers arrested Monserrate at the hospital.

The arrest meant Monserrate couldn't make his own holiday party at a substance abuse treatment center in Corona last night.

Prosecutors had been probing Monserrate's connections to a now-defunct nonprofit organization called Libre.

Any political consequences may fall into a gray area, though. Council Speaker Christine Quinn referred his case to the Council's Ethics Committee. It is unclear whether it would take action once he leaves for Albany.

The Senate may not take up an ethics case for something he did before taking office. Smith ducked questions about it.

Mayor Bloomberg and Quinn also declined to comment on the arrest, though Quinn said anyone charged with domestic violence should be prosecuted "regardless of any position that individual might hold."

Monserrate was elected to the Council in 2001 and served on its Public Safety Committee. He attended his last Council meeting on Thursday, where he and other departing members were honored by their colleagues. He was elected to the Senate last month after he won the backing of Queens Democrats over previous Sen. John Sabini, who pleaded guilty to drunken driving and was later picked to run the state racing and wagering board.