Monserrate ordered to stand trial

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Photo Courtesy New York Daily News
Hiram Monserrate
Photo Courtesy New York Daily News
Hiram Monserrate

It looks like State Senator Hiram Monserrate is headed to trial for allegedly beating his girlfriend.

At his latest court date, on Thursday, July 30, Queens Supreme Court Judge William M. Erlbaum vacated Monserrate’s motion to dismiss the indictment – and also ruled that two key pieces of evidence – the woman’s testimony, as well as a videotape – were admissible.

The charges against Monserrate – back with the Democrats after briefly aligning with Senate Republicans – stem from an altercation he allegedly had with his girlfriend Karla Giraldo, 29, during the early morning hours of December 19, 2008. During an argument, Monserrate allegedly struck Giraldo in the face with a water glass that left her with a black eye and lacerations that required 20 stitches.

Hours after the incident occurred, Monserrate took Giraldo to Long Island Jewish Medical Center, 14 miles away in Nassau County, and not to the closer trauma center at Elmhurst Hospital.

The police report from that night and a statement by the Queens District Attorney on Saturday, December 20, indicated that Giraldo had originally told hospital staff that Monserrate struck her on the face. Monserrate was arrested at the hospital. Giraldo later recanted and now claims, as does Monserrate, that it was an accident.

However, Erlbaum ruled, “the motion to dismiss is denied since the evidence adduced before the Grand Jury was legally sufficient to sustain the indictment.”

Another motion to dismiss was vacated because “one of the sitting grand jurors, a police officer, recognized one of the police officers who testified before the Grand Jury as someone who had worked in the same police precinct.”

The Court said Erlbaum “finds that there is no reasonable possibility of any bias or prejudice toward the defendant.”

With regard to Giraldo’s statements to medical personnel following the incident, which were introduced as evidence, Monserrate’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, submitted, “the People introduced before the Grand Jury impermissible hearsay evidence which was used to establish a necessary element to support the assault charge, namely intent.”

Erlbaum’s ruling was based on the New York State Court of Appeals holding in People V. Johnson that an “out-of-court statement is properly admissible under the excited utterance exception when made under the stress of excitement caused by an external event, and not the product of studied reflection and possible fabrication.”

The judge said, “Although the medical personnel asked the alleged victim what happened, there was no indication from the Grand Jury minutes that she was questioned in such a manner as would illicit studied reflection.”

With regard to the video – which allegedly shows Monserrate dragging a sobbing Giraldo – the defense claimed that the tape was not authenticated before being introduced to the Grand Jury.

Erlbaum found that, since the surveillance cameras in the Jackson Heights apartment building recorded images onto a computer, which were then reviewed by police and recorded onto DVD – and since witnesses testified as to the accuracy of the images – that “the video in question was properly authenticated and presented as evidence . . . “

“The Grand Jury is not meant to be a mini-trial, and Senator Monserrate is very confident that a jury will be able to cut through the rhetoric and see that he is innocent of these charges,” said Chad Seigel of Tacopina, Seigel & Turano, P.C.

Monserrate is set to go to trial on September 14.