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A police officer from the same precinct that arrested state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) on suspicion of slashing his girlfriend’s face during a fight in December was part of the grand jury that indicted the embattled politician, according to court papers filed by Monserrate’s attorney last week.
Joseph Tacopino, whom Monserrate hired last month after dismissing previous attorney Irving Seidman, called for a dismissal of the case against Monserrate based on an affidavit filed by Charles Castro, a former NYPD officer and close Monserrate ally, alleging one of the grand jurors was an officer in the 105th Precinct.
Monserrate was arrested Dec. 19 after driving his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, from his Jackson Heights apartment to Long Island Jewish Hospital with facial lacerations. Hospital staff called police after treating Giraldo, and Monserrate was arrested at the hospital by the 105th Precinct.
Prosecutors have video evidence they claim shows Giraldo struggling with Monserrate as he tries to take her to the car from his apartment, but a Queens Criminal Court judge has refused to release the footage to the public.
Castro, who befriended Monserrate when both were police officers in the 1990s and later served as his chief of staff, spoke with an officer who testified before the grand jury March 24, court papers allege. The officer, identified by the last name “Refer,” said he recognized one of the grand jurors as an officer who worked with him in the 105th, court papers show.
Refer told Castro he informed the district attorney’s office about the potential conflict, but was told not to worry about it, the affidavit said.
“Here, it was incumbent upon the People — who were aware of the relationship ... to ensure that the grand juror not hear testimony from his fellow officer or participate in the proceedings,” Tacopino said in the court filing.
The Queens district attorney’s office said they would answer Tacopino’s allegations in their own court filings, which had not been submitted by press time Tuesday.
Tacopino also accused prosecutors of cutting out several hours of security camera footage of Monserrate’s hallway in an effort to make the events recorded on Dec. 19 seem more rapid. Much more time elapses on the tape between when Monserrate allegedly tosses the union card of another police officer he found in Giraldo’s purse down a trash chute in the hallway and when Giraldo allegedly appears on camera in an apparent struggle to escape Monserrate or get help from one of his neighbors, Tacopino said.
Monserrate, who faces a maximum of seven years in prison if convicted of the felony assault charges leveled against him, has suggested that Queens District Attorney Richard Brown may have a grudge against him for criticizing the veteran prosecutor’s efforts in two murder cases while serving in the City Council. His next court date is July 2.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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