More stories in our series on domestic violence:
THE SILENT SHAME- AN INTRODUCTION TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
DEBUNKING THE MYTHS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
ABUSE CASES ON THE RISE, MORE UNREPORTED
Domestic violence incidents occur every day in Queens and throughout the country. While most of the cases get little fanfare or attention from the media, a number of high profile cases involve well-known victims or defendants.
“When there are high-profile defendants arrested for domestic violence then it clearly brings up issues that sometimes people don’t want to talk about,” said Scott Kessler, Queens Assistant District Attorney, who is the Bureau Chief of the Domestic Violence Bureau, charged with prosecuting these cases. “Obviously talking about it is important.”
For Kessler, who has been heading up the bureau since its formation in 2000, the most high-profile case he has personally prosecuted happened in 2009 when the Queens District Attorney prosecuted former State Senator Hiram Monserrate.
The case, which was splashed on the front page of newspapers and frequently led many local TV newscasts, centered on charges that Monserrate assaulted his girlfriend Karla Giraldo by slashing her in the face with a piece of glass. Monserrate took Giraldo to Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Hospital the night of the incident, and she received between 20 and 40 stitches to the laceration on her face. During the trial, emergency room doctors testified that Giraldo told them early that morning that Monserrate struck her with the piece of glass during the fight.
However, less than 24 hours after the incident took place that December night, Giraldo signed an affidavit saying what happened was an accident – something that Monserrate has maintained since the beginning. Joseph Tacopina, Monserrate’s lead defense attorney, made the case at trial that Monserrate was bringing an intoxicated Giraldo a glass of water in bed when he stumbled, and the glass struck Giraldo.
Queens State Senator Hiram Monserrate beat the top charge of felony assault, but a Queens judge found him guilty of a lesser misdemeanor charge
“The decision represents a victory for those of us who seek to prevent family violence and abuse – and to punish those who engage in such conduct,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said following the judge’s verdict. “And it more than justifies our prosecution of this case in spite of the victim’s refusal to assist – or in any wise cooperate – with us in the prosecution.”
Another high profile case erupted in Queens this year when New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, better known to baseball fans as K-Rod, allegedly assaulted his father-in-law outside of the family room at Citi Field following a Mets loss. Rodriguez allegedly pinned his father-in-law against a wall and punched him in the face multiple times.
Less than a month after the incident, K-Rod was back in a Queens courtroom after sending 56 text messages to the mother of his two children – a violation of an order of protection issued after the incident. During the hearing, Kessler painted K-Rod as someone with a history of domestic violence against his wife, describing a time in 2005 when he allegedly beat her so badly she had to go to the hospital.
“He’s not naive and loving,” Kessler said during the September court date. “He’s merely manipulating and controlling.”
While these cases made headlines locally, Kessler believes an incident that happened in 1994 really changed the way that the public looked at domestic violence cases.
“I think the O.J. Simpson case really changed things,” said Kessler.