Should he stay or go? Constituents divided

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State Sen. Hiram Monserrate’s (D-East Elmhurst) public image among his constituents was tarnished but not necessarily broken after his conviction last week on misdemeanor assault charges and elected officials’ calls for his ouster.

Some residents did not recognize Monserrate’s name and were not aware he had been acquitted of felony assault in the injury of his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, whom he took to the hospital last December with deep gashes above her eye after the couple fought. Both have said her injury was an accident.

“I don’t read the newspaper,” said one man as he walked away from the corner of Junction and Northern boulevards Monday night.

Others were disappointed the verdict was not harsher.

“She got 40 stitches. He should have definitely got time,” said Corona resident Nikita Richards, 20.

Juan Valez, 44, of East Elmhurst, believed Monserrate was only found not guilty because Giraldo would not testify against him. “It’s a travesty of justice,” he said. “I believe there should be one law that applies to everybody.”

Valez thought Monserrate should step down “in the interests of justice and to save the party’s influence and the public’s opinion.”

At least one constituent identified personally with Monserrate’s situation, however.

“I myself, I think maybe they fight, maybe have an accident, too,” said Maria Cardona, 55, of East Elmhurst, who noted something similar happened to her many years ago. “We were talking with our hands. We don’t get the police department. We keep it, and then the next day, then we say we’re sorry.”

Cardona thought Monserrate should keep his office.

“He do a good job,” she said. “It’s no problem for him to continue.”

Others in the Latino community felt the media’s coverage of the trial and the reaction among Monserrate’s colleagues represents a different kind of double standard.

“It’s almost a jury by media and not by judge,” said Martha Flores-Vazquez, a Democratic district leader from Flushing who runs a domestic violence counseling service and supports Monserrate. “The media can either make you and break you.”

Haydee Zambrana, executive director of the Corona-based Latin Women in Action, believes Monserrate is under attack in the media because he is not white.

“One lesson that any minority in politics should learn is that if you are not white, Jewish or European, you better walk a fine line or else,” she wrote in an e-mail. “They will not rest until they put this man out of commission. Just because the bias and the hate fills the rooms where those cameras capture or the crippled hands write.”

But not everyone agreed with that assessment.

“There are different laws for rich people and poor people,” said East Elmhurst resident Debbie Pabon, 54. “It used to be for black and white people, but not anymore. If you can afford the best lawyers, I guess they can get you off of anything.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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