Monserrate assault case heads to trial in September

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A Queens Supreme Court judge has denied motions by Hiram Monserrate to throw out his indictment and suppress evidence in his pending case on assault charges. The trial will begin Sept. 14.

In a 20-page opinion, Judge William Erlbaum dismissed claims by Monserrate’s defense lawyers that video evidence was improperly presented to grand jurors and refused to release grand jury minutes to them.

Monserrate was arrested Dec. 19 after getting into a fight with his girlfriend, Carla Giraldo, and allegedly slashing her face with a broken glass. He was charged with assault and could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Monserrate, who showed up in a dark gray suit, had no comment. Giraldo has appeared at previous court dates but was not present for Thursday’s hearing.

“Today was a day that for the defense ... was a day of great relief,” the senator’s attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said after the hearing. “It’s now the beginning of the process to exonerate Sen. Monserrate.”

The 6-minute, 37-second video in question, surveillance camera footage taken in the hallway of Monserrate’s Jackson Heights apartment building, was compiled by police from footage containing either Monserrate or Giraldo. Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors presented the tape to jurors as if the events that happened over several hours elapsed over a few minutes, but Erlbaum noted that the footage was time-stamped and grand jurors were informed.

The footage does not show Monserrate dragging Giraldo down a flight of stairs, but “it appears that he may have been dragging the alleged victim away from a neighbor’s door, from a railing and out of the building,” Erlbaum wrote.

Erlbaum also rejected the defense’s attempts to throw out the indictment based on the fact that one of the grand jurors was a police officer who recognized an officer testifying as a former coworker.

“It appears from these affidavits that the parties never had a personal, social or significant professional relationship and that their past contact ceased years ago,” Erlbaum wrote.

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

Posted 6:31 pm, October 10, 2011
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