State Sen. Hiram Monserrate’s (D-East Elmhurst) legal team lashed out at Queens District Attorney Richard Brown Friday as a Queens Criminal Court judge ruled he will not be allowed contact with girlfriend Karla Giraldo until a conference Feb. 27.
“The only reason the defendant stands in this courtroom today is that he is an elected official and he petitioned and led protests against the Queens district attorney in regards to two murders,” said Irving Seidman, Monserrate’s attorney. “This is called retribution.”
“Do you have any evidence to support that?” asked Justice Joseph Zayas. “I don’t think you do.”
Seidman and an attorney for Giraldo both argued against extending an order of protection established after Monserrate was arrested on suspicion of slashing Giraldo’s face with a broken glass during a fight Dec. 18, but the court ruled that the felony assault charge was too serious to grant the request.
“I don’t think there’s any question that it’s the right thing to do,” Zayas said.
Monserrate and Giraldo have both disputed the charges, claiming the injury occurred when he tripped in the bedroom while carrying a glass of water.
The senator was accompanied to the courthouse by roughly 25 supporters, including Altagracia Mayi, mother of slain Jackson Heights resident Manuel Mayi. Monserrate has criticized the district attorney’s handling of the case.
“Under the circumstances — and this is not about whether Mr. Monserrate has support in the community — the question is very narrow,” Zayas said regarding his ruling.
The senator’s staff also produced a sworn deposition by Giraldo from Dec. 19, the day of Monserrate’s arrest, refuting the claims she made in the criminal complaint that he attacked her and claiming she was coerced by police into making the earlier statement.
In the handwritten deposition, Giraldo said: “I have never been hit by Hiram but we argued often as normal couples do.”
She also described the circumstances surrounding the incident: “That evening I was very upset and moving around frantically and therefore careless around the glass.”
Seidman said the Dec. 19 deposition was not provided to him until Dec. 31 and contended that the delay represented interference from the DA’s office.
Prosecutor Scott Kessler, head of the Queens district attorney’s domestic violence unit, said Giraldo told him she wanted the protective order lifted during an interview this month, but he added, “It’s often common for victims to recant their statement.”
The Dec. 18 fight erupted at Monserrate’s Jackson Heights apartment when he found another man’s Policeman’s Benevolent Association card in Giraldo’s wallet, Kessler said. Surveillance camera footage shows Monserrate taking the card into the hallway and throwing it down the incinerator chute, Kessler said. Giraldo is seen on the tape rushing into the hallway and pushing Monserrate out of the way as she tried to get to the card, Kessler said.
The tape also shows Giraldo running to a neighbor’s door and shouting before Monserrate grabs her violently and pulls her away, evidently to go to the hospital, Kessler said.
Seidler called Kessler’s description of events an exaggeration, but declined to comment on whether he had seen the tape.
“It was an accident,” Monserrate said after the court appearance. “My girlfriend said it was an accident, and in the end, the truth will prevail.”
The senator had waived his right to a speedy trial, but withdrew that waiver Friday, beginning the grand jury process. The district attorney’s office has 180 days from Jan. 30 to bring the case to trial.
His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 27.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@tim
©2009 Community News Group
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