With a vote of 53 to 8, the State Senate has expelled Senator Hiram Monserrate.
“This clearly is a much bigger issue than just me,” Monserrate said before he cast his vote against expulsion. “I really hope that no one in this chamber in their life or career finds themselves in my position. That one evening something become awry and they find themselves at the mercy of some colleagues with a political agenda. If it’s Hiram Monserrate today, it could definitely be you tomorrow.”
The voted came shortly after 9 p.m. on Tuesday, February 9 and after the State Democratic Conference’s almost six hour closed door session. Monserrate had not been allowed to participate.
However, when Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch resumed the State’s business, on the agenda was the business of whether or not to expel the Senator. Only Bronx Senators Ruben Diaz and Pedro Espada Jr., two of the “four amigos” that led the Albany coup last June along with Monserrate, explained their vote.
“Go ahead and get even, go ahead enjoy,” Diaz sarcastically told the Senators and added that the vote had been racially motivated. “Go ahead, enjoy your victory, you got it.”
The Senate committee’s decision, which recommended that Monserrate be expelled on Thursday, January 14, came after more than a month of long discussions and examination of court evidence and transcripts from Monserrate’s 2009 assault trial.
A Queens judge had found Monserrate guilty of a misdemeanor assault charge for forcibly dragging girlfriend Karla Giraldo out of his apartment building in December 2009, but the judge cleared him of the felony assault charges for slashing her in the face with a broken glass.
Senator Monserrate and his lawyers have maintained from the beginning that the vote in the Senate violated the State Constitution. Some Senators, however, raised the fact that the nine-member bipartisan State Senate Committee included skilled and shrewd lawyers, like committee chair Senator Eric Schneiderman.
“I expect to be a member of the Senate for many, many years,” Monserrate had told reporters before the afternoon Senate session on February 9, flanked by Diaz and Espada Jr., as he exited the Legislative Correspondents Association room in the State Senate.
“I’m being represented by counsel. Norman Siegel, and Joe Tacopina, Steve Hyman are a very well-regarded, well-versed team of attorneys. They’re clear about what the Constitution is,” Monserrate said.
The committee suggested censure as its second option and then left it up to the entire Senate to decide the Senator’s fate in the legislative body. Had Monserrate been found guilty of the felony, he would have been automatically expelled.
“He was invited to testify or submit written testimony, and in fact he did his best to stonewall the committee,” Queens Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who had served on the State Senate Committee.
Stavisky said she was very disappointed with the comments of Diaz and Monserrate and said the vote had nothing to do with race.
“All it was was a vote to condemn domestic violence,” Stavisky said. “It’s something that you wish had never occurred,” Stavisky said about the incident itself. “But, I do believe that justice was served,” with the vote.
With the Senate’s vote to expel, the Democrats now have an even slimmer majority of 31 to 30. The immediate impact will most likely initially affect the State’s budget negotiations in March. The vote also leaves the residents of the 13th Senate District without representation during that time in Albany.
“Within the budget is the school funding, the MTA budget questions of cuts to services, cuts to CUNY and SUNY,” said Queens College political science Professor Michael Krasner, “all mayor issues about services that impact his [Monserrate’s] constituency that are powerful.”
According to Krasner, Governor David Paterson has stated that he would call for a special election to take place soon. In response, however, Monserrate’s attorneys would seek an injunction of the election until their lawsuit to reverse the Senate’s vote had been settled.
“Either way it would be obviously unfair to the district because their interests will not be represented,” said Krasner.
Monserrate represented the parts of Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Lefrak City in Queens. He would have faced a September 2010 primary challenge from Assemblymember Jose Peralta, who has the backing of the Queens Democratic Party.
Additional reporting by Pete Davis.