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Monserrate assault on camera: Sources

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Authorities have obtained video surveillance that allegedly shows embattled City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) pulling his girlfriend’s hair outside his apartment early Friday morning just hours before he was charged with assaulting her, sources told TimesLedger Newspapers.

Monserrate, elected to the state Senate in November, was arraigned on assault and criminal possession of a weapon charges Friday evening after authorities said he allegedly broke a drinking glass in his hand and stabbed his girlfriend, 30−year−old Karla Giraldo, in the face.

The lacerations required 20 stitches to close, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Queens district attorney.

Monserrate pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment late Friday evening at Queens Criminal Court and released a statement proclaiming his innocence shortly thereafter.

“I have been charged with offenses that I did not commit and am not capable of committing,” he said. “As a son, a brother and a father, these accusations are offensive, and they are crushing on a personal level. Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly look forward to all of the facts being brought to light during this legal process.”

But sources, who declined to be identified, said surveillance footage taken from Monserrate’s apartment building allegedly shows the senator−elect pulling his girlfriend’s hair outside the door of his apartment shortly before he took her to North Shore−Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

Authorities said Monserrate drove Giraldo, an entertainment writer for a Queens Spanish−language newspaper, to North Shore LIJ, on the Nassau County border, shortly before 4 a.m., where she received treatment for two lacerations in the vicinity of her left eye.

A doctor at the hospital called police, as is required by state law if domestic violence is suspected, and Monserrate was arrested shortly before 5 a.m.

According to the criminal complaint, Giraldo allegedly told police that after an argument in his apartment between 1 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., Monserrate broke a drinking glass in his hand and struck her in the face. Since Monserrate was released on $5,000 bail Friday, both he and Giraldo have stated publicly that the incident was an accident and there were no violent intentions on the part of the Councilman.

If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

Supporters of the councilman rallied outside his office Monday afternoon, contending Monserrate did not fit the profile of a domestic violence abuser.

Democratic District Leader Martha Flores−Vasquez, who operates a domestic violence hotline, who said Monserrate has referred more than 500 cases to her, said police can often push a suspected victim to admit to something that was not true.

“I have to tell you: Sometimes a situation can get misconstrued. Sometimes they can put pressure on someone and then it’s very easy to make a story of something that doesn’t exist,” Vasquez said. “The culture and the background of Hiram Monserrate are not violent. He did not deserve to be treated like a criminal.”

Several of Monserrate’s fellow legislators and political operatives, who asked not to be identified, expressed regret but not shock when they heard of the allegations.

“I don’t know who would be surprised by that,” said one Democratic official. “He’s an aggressive guy and I don’t think anyone would refute that fact.”

By contrast state Sen. Eric Adams (D−Brooklyn), who like Monserrate is a former police officer, expressed his support of Monserrate Tuesday and called into question the NYPD and the Queens DA’s handling of his case.

“The primary goal of investigating a complaint of domestic violence is to ensure the safety of the innocent victim,” Adams said. “However, the Police Department and the DA appear to have ignored Ms. Giraldo’s repeated insistence that the injury she sustained was the result of an accident, a fact that has been publicly supported by Ms. Giraldo’s family in interviews with the press.”

Others whom Monserrate has helped during his Council term, such as Willets Point tenant business owner Marcos Neira, said his group, the Willets Point Defense Committee, plan on distancing themselves.

“He gave us some contacts, some connections, but we don’t need Monserrate,” Neira said, noting he was happy to have the Councilman on his side as an advocate. “It’s unbelievable what he did to his girlfriend. How can you do that?”

Monserrate, who planned to give up his Council seat, ran unopposed for former state Sen. John Sabini’s seat in November. He gave a parting speech at City Hall last Thursday during his last day as a councilman and was lauded by his colleagues, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D−Manhattan).

Monserrate has had a high profile in recent weeks. He was praised by his colleagues and community groups after achieving a major affordable housing deal with Mayor Michael Bloomberg on his proposed redevelopment of Willets Point.

He also prepared to launch his political career as a state senator with a bang before even arriving in Albany. Last month, he briefly joined a caucus of other legislators that came to be known as the “Gang of Four,” who threatened to challenge the leadership of presumptive Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans). He left the group and threw his support behind Smith in mid−November.

During his political career, Monserrate has been an opponent of domestic violence. In 2006, the councilman secured $100,000 to create programs specifically designed to end domestic violence in Queens immigrant communities.

He was scheduled to return to court Jan. 16.

Reporters Nathan Duke, Anna Gustafson, Ivan Pereira and Jeremy Walsh contributed to this article.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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