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Monserrate pleads not guilty to slashing his girlfriend’s face

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State Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) pleaded not guilty to slashing his girlfriend in the face Friday after a grand jury indicted him on charges, but he will still not be allowed to associate with girlfriend Karla Giraldo.

“Sir, because I am innocent, I plead not guilty,” Monserrate told Judge William Erlbaum in Queens Criminal Court. His next court date is June 26. Monserrate, 41, faces three counts of felony assault and three counts of misdemeanor assault. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

The rest of the two−hour court appearance was dominated by Monserrate’s attorney, Irving Seidman, who tried to persuade Erlbaum to let Giraldo ask the judge to lift an order of protection against Monserrate that has existed since January. Erlbaum refused the request, and after viewing security camera footage of a struggle between Monserrate and Giraldo in the hallway of Monserrate’s apartment building the night of the incident, extended a full order of protection until December.

Giraldo, who stood up from her seat in the courtroom and kissed Monserrate on the cheek during a brief recess, said Monserrate had done nothing wrong.

“I’ve always said it was an accident,” she said outside the courthouse Friday.

During the hearing, Seidman again implied that prosecutor Scott Kessler had distorted the facts of Giraldo’s injury at previous hearings, drawing an agitated objection from Kessler.

“I’m just getting a little tired of Mr. Seidman saying I’m misleading the court when I’m reading something verbatim from a medical record,” he said.

Outside the courthouse, Monserrate told reporters that prosecutors had discussed with him the possibility of a nonfelony plea that would carry no jail time.

“I said no unequivocally because I’m innocent,” he said.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 19, Monserrate got into an argument with Giraldo after he found another man’s police union card in her purse. Prosecutors allege Monserrate broke a glass in his hand and struck Giraldo in the face with it during the fight. Giraldo has claimed Monserrate tripped and fell into her while holding the glass.

After the incident, Monserrate drove Giraldo from his Jackson Heights apartment to North Shore−Long Island Jewish Hospital, where she received stitches around her left eye. Medical staff there contacted police and Monserrate was arrested shortly afterward.

The grand jury indictment led to Monserrate stepping down from the chairmanship of the Senate’s Consumer Protection Committee. Democrats in Albany including Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans) have been discussing whether to help Monserrate pay his legal expenses.

“What the leader said to his members is, ‘If you feel like you should help out a colleague, then feel free to do so,’ ” said Smith spokesman Austin Shafran, noting Smith has not contributed to Monserrate’s defense.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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