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Judge will rule in Monserrate assault case Thursday

Karla Giraldo waits to testify against her boyfriend,

Karla Giraldo waits to testify against her boyfriend, State Sen. Hiram Monserrate, in Queens Supreme Court. (Sept. 30, 2009) Credit: David Pokress

The judge presiding in the felony assault trial of Hiram Monserrate, the state senator who prosecutors say slashed his girlfriend with a broken glass during an argument in his Jackson Heights apartment, said he intends to render a verdict Thursday.

Justice William Erlbaum made the announcement Tuesday after hearing lengthy closing arguments from the prosecution and the defense on the 10th day of the non-jury trial.

Assistant District Attorney Scott Kessler, in his closing statement, said Monserrate's actions showed that the Dec. 19 cutting of his girlfriend's face was no accident.

He said Monserrate (D-Jackson Heights) didn't call 911 and drove to Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, 14 miles away, rather than going to a hospital four blocks from his home to get treatment for Karla Giraldo, 30.

Kessler referred to video from security cameras at Monserrate's apartment, which was introduced as evidence, to show the senator "dragging" his girlfriend out of the building after she rang a neighbor's doorbell.

Monserrate acted as a person protecting his political career, the prosecutor said, not one with concerns for his injured companion.

"When you're caught on tape, you can't deny what you did," Kessler said.

Monserrate's attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said Monserrate, 42, used reasonable force to try and get Giraldo to a hospital. She resisted because she didn't want to go, he said.

Tacopina, rejecting prosecutors' arguments about Monserrate's choice of a hospital, has contended that his client sought the best care for Giraldo.

The defense attorney said workers at LIJ provided distorted views of the cutting incident. The workers waited weeks after Giraldo was treated at the hospital to provide a thorough report of what she told them, he said.

Tacopina said one physician, Dr. Dawne Kort, who interviewed Giraldo about how she was injured, edited her notes using her own words, not Giraldo's. He cited Kort's testimony that, "It just wasn't expressed the way I wanted to express it."

"It's not an exercise in literature," Tacopina said.

Monserrate has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of second-degree assault and two misdemeanor counts of second-degree assault. If convicted of a felony, he faces up to 7 years in prison and would be stripped of his Senate seat.

Prosecutors, through witnesses and evidence, have portrayed the freshman senator as a jealous boyfriend who attacked Giraldo with a broken water glass. Her wound required at least 20 stitches. Giraldo testified her injury was accidental.

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