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Hiram Monserrate Sentenced To Probation, Counseling

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NEW YORK — A state senator was sentenced Friday to probation and domestic abuse counseling, the resolution of a yearlong legal drama that began when he took his girlfriend to a hospital with a gaping, bleeding wound under her eye and ended with her begging a judge to let them be together.

State Sen. Hiram Monserrate, a freshman Democrat, could have been sent to jail for up to a year on the misdemeanor assault conviction for unintentionally injuring girlfriend Karla Giraldo by dragging her through his apartment lobby.

But his troubles are not over: A Senate committee is looking into whether he is fit to remain in the Legislature.

Monserrate, in a tearful statement to Justice William Erlbaum, said he took full responsibility for his actions and looked forward to resuming his life with Giraldo.

"I am so sorry for the harm Karla Giraldo endured and suffered," he said. "I will not let her down, I will not let the court down, and I will not let my community down."

Monserrate and Giraldo have been under a court order not to see each other since shortly after their violent encounter was caught on video last December. She sought to have the order lifted and said Friday that the two planned to marry, but the judge kept the protection order in place.

Giraldo once again said it was an accident when Monserrate smashed a glass into her face, causing bloody injuries that required 40 stitches.

"I want to be with him, and I want to continue to be with him," she said through an interpreter.

During the unusually long four-hour sentencing, Erlbaum pointedly questioned Giraldo about what happened, about her contradictory statements during the trial, about the health of their relationship and about her mental health. He said she seemed submissive to a jealous Monserrate.

Erlbaum said he would be willing to lift the protection order if the couple could prove that they could address their problems. He also suggested that Giraldo seek therapy.

"I hope the time will come that Karla Giraldo will have the self-respect to stop acting like a slave," the judge said.

Erlbaum sentenced Monserrate to three years on probation and 250 hours of community service, and ordered him to pay fines of more than $1,000. He's also required to enroll in a one-year counseling program on power and control.

His attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said he would appeal the conviction and would start working on getting the protection order lifted.

Monserrate was acquitted of intentionally smashing Giraldo's face with the glass on Dec. 19, 2008, in a jealous rage. Both said it was accidental, but statements she made to hospital officials indicate she changed her story.

Had he been convicted on that charge – second-degree felony assault – the freshman Democrat could have lost his Senate seat automatically.

Some lawmakers and other public officials have called for Monserrate's resignation.

The Senate's Special Committee of Inquiry will hold two meetings in the next 10 days to review the matter. Two members appeared in court to ask the judge for grand jury testimony and were granted access to Giraldo's statements.

After completing its investigations, the panel will report to the Senate with its recommendations, said James Freedland, a spokesman for Sen. Eric Schneiderman, who heads the committee.

Erlbaum said the "the Legislature has in its membership a flawed human being," but cautioned senators not to rush to remove Monserrate from the chamber.

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Associated Press Writer Valerie Bauman in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.