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Monserrate opts for bench trial in slashing case

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The state senator accused of slashing his girlfriend’s face with a broken glass during an argument waived his right to a jury trial in Queens Supreme Court Monday. Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) will instead face a bench trial, with Judge William Erlbaum handing down the verdict and the sentence.

If convicted on felony assault charges, he faces up to seven years in prison. The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 21.

Joseph Tacopina, Monserrate’s attorney, said they made the decision because he feared jurors would not be able to “overcome their sense of right and wrong in their own beliefs.”

“News coverage in this case has been mostly one-sided,” Tacopina said. “I am concerned that ... jurors are not going to be able to put aside all these collateral issues.”

Among these is a security camera tape that allegedly depicts Monserrate dragging his frantic girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, away from a neighbor’s door. Erlbaum has sealed the footage, claiming that it “makes the blood boil.” The tape does not show how Giraldo was injured.

Erlbaum warned Monserrate that the choice meant prosecutors would have to convince only one man instead of 12, and that he would see all the evidence, even the inadmissible items, though he said would disregard them in his verdict.

Monserrate was arrested Dec. 19 after driving Giraldo to North Shore - Long Island Jewish Hospital to be treated for her injuries.

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