Emergency doctor testifies in NY State Sen. Hiram Monserrate felony assault case

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

An emergency room doctor testified this week in the ongoing criminal trial against New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate. Monserrate faces charges of felony assault in an alleged attack on his girlfriend Karla Giraldo.

Hiram Monserrate in 2009
Image: Matt Ryan.

The prosecution has asserted that when Monserrate discovered that his girlfriend had the business card of another man, he chose to strike out at her. Monserrate has entered a plea of not guilty to charges he sliced his girlfriend's face with broken glass during a conflict at their apartment in December 2008. The defense team denied that the injury to the woman by Monserrate was intentional, instead claiming that the incident was "an accident" and the result of Monserrate tripping while bringing Giraldo a glass of water.

It appeared to be a stab wound.

—Dr. Dawne Kort, attending physician, Long Island Jewish Hospital emergency department

Dawne Kort, attending physician at the emergency department of Long Island Jewish Hospital, testified that Giraldo repeatedly told her she had been in a fight with Monserrate, and that he intentionally injured her with a piece of broken glass. Dr. Kort brought the situation to the attention of the police because she believed Monserrate had stabbed Giraldo – Dr. Kort also was aware that Monserrate was in the waiting room and she had concerns about Giraldo's safety.

Dr. Kort testified that Giraldo told her Monserrate had exclaimed: "You want the water? You want the water? Here's the water!", and then proceeded to smash a glass into Giraldo's face. Dr. Kort testified that Monserrate's girlfriend told her Giraldo and Monseratte "were fighting and she asked for a glass of water and he shoved it in her face." Dr. Kort said that Giraldo cried: "I can't believe he did this to me. My face! My face! I can't believe my face," on the night of December 19, 2008, while being treated in the hospital.

According to Dr. Kort, another emergency physician said Monserrate had asserted the incident was an accident. When queried about how Giraldo responded to this assertion, Kort testified: "She said many times it was not an accident. They were fighting and he took a piece of glass and cut her face." Giraldo had lacerations surrounding the area of her left eye which required stitches. Dr. Kort also testified as to the nature of the injuries: "It appeared to be a stab wound. It's hospital policy that all stab wounds get reported to the police."

I think [the doctor] is officially impeached, but I’m not the fact finder that’s up to the judge.

—Joseph Tacopina, defense attorney for Hiram Monserrate

The testimony of Dr. Kort is in contradiction to a sworn statement given after the incident by Giraldo, as well as by arguments from defense counsel. Monserrate's lawyer Joseph Tacopina challenged Dr. Kort on cross examination, arguing that his client's girlfriend's statements to the doctor were inconsistent. Tacopina queried Dr. Kort on specifically when she wrote down notes about Giraldo's statements; Dr. Kort admitted she waited 18 days before writing down her memories of the event. When challenged by Tacopina on her ability to recall the event, Dr. Kort responded: "This was memorable."

Tacopina later commented outside the court to journalists about Dr. Kort's testimony: "I think [the doctor] is officially impeached, but I’m not the fact finder that’s up to the judge. Clearly, she said things very differently in the grand jury than she did on December 19, 2008 the date of the accident."

Chief resident at Long Island Jewish, Dr. Daniel Frogel, submitted a statement which was read in court. Dr. Frogel wrote down his memories of the event on January 2. His statement said that he recalls Giraldo told him "it was not an accident".

Supreme Court Justice William Erlbaum will judge the case without a jury, as Monserrate waived his right for a trial before his peers. Monseratte's defense counsel attempted to suppress Dr. Kort's testimony in pretrial hearings. However, Justice Erlbaum ruled to allow the doctor's statement. The group National Organization for Women has requested that the judge rule Monserrate should be given "the maximum sentence allowable by law". If convicted, Democrat Sen. Monserrate could serve prison time and lose his New York State Senate seat.

Monserrate is a former city councilman. He became a member of the New York State Senate weeks after the conflict with Giraldo, and was made chair of the committee overseeing consumer affairs. Along with Democrat Pedro Espada Jr., Monserrate started a shift in control of the Senate by aligning with the Republican Party.


Wikipedia Learn more about Assault and Hiram Monserrate on Wikipedia.