NY senator expelled, vows to fight in court

State Senate pushes out Monserrate over domestic abuse charges

Published February 10, 2010 2:49PM (EST)

A Democratic state senator who betrayed his colleagues by joining Republicans in a brief coup and was convicted of a misdemeanor assault charge for dragging his girlfriend around during an argument at his apartment says he'll go back to court to fight his expulsion from the Senate.

The New York Senate voted 53-8 on Tuesday night to oust Sen. Hiram Monserrate, a move the lawmaker called an injustice to the people who elected him.

Monserrate and another Democrat teamed with Republicans last summer in a coalition that resulted in a monthlong legislative gridlock before they switched back.

He then was convicted at trial last fall of dragging Karla Giraldo through his lobby in December 2008 but was acquitted of felony assault. A felony conviction would have automatically cost him his job.

Monserrate, of Queens, apologized for any discredit his conduct brought to the Senate, but he said Tuesday's vote was depriving voters of their right to choose a representative.

"We look forward to the court's intervening to protect the constitutional rights of the people that I represent," he said.

Attorney Steve Hyman said he and Monserrate will file a federal lawsuit challenging his removal as soon as possible. Hyman and Monserrate said they will seek court orders preventing officials from removing him or holding a special election to replace him.

Gov. David Paterson, also a Democrat, said he will call a special election for March 16 to fill the seat. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office is prepared to defend the Senate's decision, spokesman John Milgrim said.

Monserrate is separately appealing his criminal conviction.

Sen. Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat who chaired a special investigations committee that recommended censuring or expelling Monserrate, said Monserrate's conduct damaged the integrity of the Senate.

"The Senate cannot turn a blind eye to an act of domestic violence, a crime for which the state of New York has a zero-tolerance policy, and an attempt to evade responsibility for such a crime through dishonesty and bullying," Schneiderman said.

The committee criticized Monserrate for refusing to cooperate with its investigation. Its report noted that he was convicted of dragging his girlfriend in a domestic incident and told a judge he took full responsibility for his actions but that in later media interviews he didn't acknowledge that.

Monserrate has said he was trying to get his girlfriend to a hospital to treat a facial cut, which they said was an accident from a glass he was holding earlier that night. A judge sentenced him for the misdemeanor to three years' probation, 250 hours of community service and a year of domestic abuse counseling.

The eight votes opposed to expulsion included those who wanted Monserrate to be censured, which would have disciplined him but left him in his seat.

Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Bronx Democrat, said the Democratic conference voted to expel Monserrate "to get even" for his role in the coup. When pressed for a vote during his speech, Diaz said to his colleagues that he votes against all of them.

The Democrats held a 32-30 majority including Monserrate.

By Michael Virtanen

MORE FROM Michael Virtanen

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

New York Violence Against Women