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Monserrate opts not to testify at assault trial

Hiram Monserrate, right, and his lawyer talk during

Hiram Monserrate, right, and his lawyer talk during a break in his assault trial in Queens. (Sept. 30, 2009) Credit: David Pokress

State Sen. Hiram Monserrate Thursday passed on the chance to testify in his defense at his felony assault trial, and closing arguments in the nonjury trial are expected when proceedings resume Tuesday.

Joseph Tacopina, Monserrate's attorney, had hinted at the possibility that the senator might take the stand. But Thursday afternoon, outside State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens, Tacopina said, "We don't need to do anyone's work for them." Monserrate (D-Jackson Heights) stood nearby, purse-lipped.

Monserrate, as a longtime politician, doesn't shy away from public speaking, Tacopina said before adding, "But this is not the forum to make speeches."

The defense rested its case before State Supreme Court Justice William Erlbaum, two days after the prosecution completed its presentation. After the two sides make closing arguments Tuesday, Erlbaum said he will indicate when he will give his verdict.

After nine days of trial, there has been no testimony about specifically what happened between Monserrate, 42, and his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, on Dec. 19 in Monserrate's Jackson Heights apartment. Monserrate has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of felony and misdemeanor assault.

Prosecutors say Monserrate, in a jealous rage, attacked Giraldo, 30, with a broken water glass, slashing her face. Giraldo initially said Monserrate attacked her, but later backed Monserrate, who has maintained she was accidentally injured.

Giraldo's wound required at least 20 stitches to close.

In testimony last week, Giraldo was questioned by prosecutors only about events before and after she was injured.

Before resting its case, the defense introduced past medical records of Monserrate to counter prosecutors' claims that the senator intentionally chose to take Giraldo to a hospital farther away from his Jackson Heights apartment - rather than any of several hospitals that are close by - to "hide or bury" the incident.

"But that didn't happen. We're here," Tacopina said, adding that Monserrate sought the best care for Giraldo.

The medical records, which were accepted into evidence, are from June 7, 2003, when Monserrate made an emergency room visit to Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park. Tacopina provided no details about the visit.