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EDITORIAL: Censure Monserrate and let voters decide his fate

As repugnant as his crime was, Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) should not be expelled from the State Senate for it. Instead, the people of his district should have the opportunity to show him how they really feel - when he seeks re-election in November.

Monserrate dragged his bleeding, weeping girlfriend through the hallway of his apartment building after an argument. Caught on a security video, he was convicted of misdemeanor assault. A report from a special Senate panel recommends expulsion or censure, saying that Monserrate has taken no responsibility, refused to cooperate with the panel, and harmed the "integrity and reputation" of the State Senate.

Monserrate is very hard to take. He has compared himself to voting-rights martyrs and Jesus Christ, and held a showy rally last weekend to demonstrate that his community - particularly its women - still want him to serve.

But the Senate should not silence voters. Senators should cast a bipartisan vote to censure Monserrate, stripping him of leadership titles, stipends, discretionary funds, committee assignments and staff. If lawmakers want to evict a member for a violent misdemeanor, they should put a new statute on the books.

Monserrate deserves punishment. Giving him a martyr's soapbox and disenfranchising voters is the wrong means. hN