Ex-Sen. Monserrate gets 2 years in prison

Former New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate leaves

Former New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate leaves Federal Court in Manhattan after being sentenced to 24 months in prison for corruption. (Dec. 11, 2012) (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)

Comparing him to Richard Nixon, a federal judge sentenced Hiram Monserrate to 2 years in prison for filling his campaign coffers with taxpayer money.

Despite a teary-eyed plea for mercy from the disgraced state senator and former city councilman, Judge Colleen McMahon showed her anger at Monserrate for using more than $94,000 in discretionary funds for political campaigns instead of community services.

The judge said his crimes against the city's taxpayers were inexcusable and compared the 45-year-old former cop to Nixon, who resigned from the White House in disgrace in 1974.

"When Dante wrote the 'Divine Comedy' he assigned crimes to different circles of hell," she said in the Manhattan courthouse. "Using people's money for your own purposes is deep down in that circle of hell."

Monserrate pleaded guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud charges in May. While on the City Council in 2006, Monserrate allocated more than $94,800 to a Queens nonprofit called Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment.

The group illegally used the money to pay for campaign workers and events during Monserrate's bid for the State Senate that year, according to an investigation.

The disgraced politician cried as he tried to apologize to the judge. His attorneys sent 16 letters from community members who asked for leniency and several of his confidants packed the courtroom to show support.

Monserrate admitted his wrongdoing but said he was trying to help his constituents.

"I fully understand this was a violation of the law and I disappointed everyone," he said as he wiped away tears.

McMahon didn't buy his excuses or apologies and said his 24-month sentence would send a clear message to corrupt politicians.

"The lesson they should learn is that anytime and every time an elected official is caught reaching into the public till, they will go to prison," she said.

The State Senate expelled Monserrate in 2010 after he was convicted in a bench trial for dragging his girlfriend from their Jackson Heights apartment after a fight in which he allegedly cut her face with a glass.

A Queens judge exonerated him on the assault charge after Karla Giraldo recanted her story about the fight.

She was in the courtroom for yesterday's sentencing and didn't react to the verdict nor speak to the press.

McMahon ordered Monserrate to report to prison in March and to pay restitution.

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