A Little Common Sense in Monserrate Case

Although we supported the vote in the state Senate to expel former Sen. Hiram Monserrate, we questioned the court’s decision to issue an order of protection preventing him from having any contact with his victim, Karla Giraldo.

That order of protection was modified last week.

Monserrate was arrested Dec. 19, 2008, after he slashed Giraldo’s face with a broken glass. He was a state assemblyman at the time and allowed to take a seat in the state Senate while his case was litigated. On Dec. 4, 2009, he was sentenced to three years probation, 250 hours of community service, a $1,000 fine and a 52-week counseling program and was told he could not have any contact with Giraldo.

But no one asked Giraldo if she wanted or needed the order of protection. And she did not.

Giraldo is an adult. She has been examined by a psychiatrist who found no reason to believe she is incapable of acting in her own interest. There are plenty of people out there who would argue that a man who seriously injures his girlfriend should never get a second chance. They may be right, but the court cannot assume the right to run Giraldo’s life. If she loves Monserrate and wants to spend time with him, that should be her decision.

Before modifying the order of protection, Justice William Erlbaum spoke to Giraldo: “Are you willing to show self-respect and act like an autonomous person?” The question was odd but well-intended.

Continuing the relationship with Monserrate was Giraldo’s decision to make and hers alone.

The pair told the court they will continue to attend counseling. Monserrate will be on probation and if he assaults or harasses Giraldo, he could face a violation of probation and up to one year in jail. On top of that, he has most likely destroyed any future he might have had in politics.

Most police officers complain orders of protection are not worth the paper they are written on. They have seen too many victims who were assaulted and even killed despite having one of these orders.

We disagree. The orders do not make a victim safe, but they help. These orders become meaningless when they are forced on an adult victim.

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