Monserrate Says He Is Innocent and Vows to Take State Senate Seat
A day after he was charged with stabbing his companion in the face with a broken glass, State Senator-elect Hiram Monserrate said he was incapable of such a crime, and vowed to take his Senate seat come Jan. 1.
In a one-page statement issued Saturday evening, Mr. Monserrate said he deeply loved and cared for his companion, Karla Giraldo, and called her injuries an “unfortunate accident.”
“I have been charged with offenses that I did not commit and am not capable of committing,” he said. “As a son, a brother and a father, these accusations are offensive, and they are crushing on a personal level. Nonetheless I wholeheartedly look forward to all of the facts being brought to light during this legal process.”
Mr. Monserrate, 41, a Queens Democrat who is in his final days on the City Council, laid low most of the day, spending at least some of it huddled with staff members in a back room of his district office preparing the statement. His lawyer, James Cullen, was there for a while as well, an aide to Mr. Monserrate said.
According to the criminal complaint, Mr. Monserrate stabbed Ms. Giraldo in the face with a broken glass during a heated argument, causing a black eye and a cut that required 20 stitches to close. The incident occurred about 1 a.m. Friday in his Jackson Heights apartment. Prosecutors said the couple were arguing over an undisclosed item Mr. Monserrate had found in her purse. But Mr. Monserrate said in court papers that he tripped while bringing Ms. Giraldo a glass of water, causing the injuries.
The prosecution’s case has been complicated by the fact that Ms. Giraldo, 30, is now saying that it was an accident and, according to a law enforcement source, is not cooperating with prosecutors.
Questions have also swirled around what Mr. Monserrate did next. Instead of taking Ms. Giraldo to Elmhurst Hospital Center, five blocks from his apartment, he drove her 12 miles to Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Nassau County, along the Queens border.
In his statement Saturday, Mr. Monserrate said it was partly Ms. Giraldo’s choice, and insisted the hospital he chose was not outside city limits.
“Despite Karla’s initial reticence and reluctance to go to the hospital, my sole concern was to provide her with immediate medical attention,” he said. “In her distress, she insisted that she would not go to Elmhurst Hospital. I took her to Long Island Jewish hospital in Queens because my family received excellent medical care there in the past.”
Ms. Giraldo, meanwhile, was apparently staying with friends or relatives and could not be reached for comment. It was not certain how long the two have been romantically involved.
Jasmina Abril de Rojas, who said she was Ms. Giraldo’s cousin, told the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario that Mr. Monserrate was innocent.
“She told me that everything had been an accident,” Ms. Rojas was quoted as saying. She added that Mr. Monserrate was not “an aggressive person.”
Mr. Monserrate remains free on $5,000 bail. His next court appearance is Jan. 16. He has been charged with second-degree assault, which carries a maximum of seven years in prison. He has also been placed under a protection order barring him from contact with Ms. Giraldo.
Mr. Monserrate is a former Marine and served 12 years in the New York Police Department before getting a psychological disability pension in 2000, according to a person who has reviewed documents related to Mr. Monserrate’s pension. The cause for his claim was not known. In a brief interview Saturday, Mr. Monserrate declined to discuss it. “You have my statement,” he said.
In seven years as a City Council member, he sponsored at least a half-dozen bills aimed at helping victims of domestic violence.
“I have dedicated my life to keeping people safe,” he said in his statement. “I stand with the many elected officials who have expressed their condemnation of domestic violence and I fully support and have even enforced laws meant to take any appearance of domestic violence seriously."
His arrest has sent ripples through Albany, where Senate Republicans and Democrats are locked in a battle over majority control. Republicans on Saturday vowed to challenge his fitness for office. Democrats, meanwhile, were exploring the legal ramifications and whether Republicans had standing to try to remove Mr. Monserrate before a conviction. If Mr. Monserrate were found guilty of a felony, he would automatically be removed.
“There’s a tremendous amount of pressure to bear,” said John E. McArdle, a spokesman for Senate Republicans. “He’s been charged with a very serious crime, and I think a lot will depend on what he attempts to do or what Senator Smith encourages him to do.”
Mr. McArdle was referring to the Senate minority leader, Malcolm A. Smith. A spokesman for Mr. Smith’s office said he had not spoken to Mr. Monserrate since his arrest. But initial indications were that the Democrats would not try to dissuade him from signing his oath of office.
“Under the State Constitution and the Public Officers Law there is no bar to the seating of Senator-elect Monserrate,” Shelley Mayer, counsel to Senate Democrats, said through a spokesman. “I anticipate that the senator-elect will be following the provisions of the law by signing and filling his oath of office on a timely basis.”
Mr. Monserrate appeared in good spirits at his office Saturday. He sounded a defiant note when asked if he would still sign his oath next month. “Absolutely,” he said.