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Dan Collins

Dan Collins

Posted: October 19, 2009 11:16 AM

Would You Buy a Used Car From This Man?

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There is only one possible upside to the pathetic, miserable, appalling story of state Senator Hiram Monserrate: Teenagers are not generally known to take state legislators as role models.

Monserrate was found guilty of misdemeanor assault last week in the case involving the girlfriend who was slashed with a piece of broken glass and then dragged out of the apartment building. The judge dropped felony charges after that girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, supported his story that the whole thing was a terrible accident involving a glass of water, an unfortunate stumble and misunderstandings on the part of the entire hospital medical staff.

The Daily News had her in the Sunday paper declaring her love for Hiram, with a huge picture and references to her full figure and tight black sweater.

As I said, the good news is that Monserrate is not a rock star. The youth of New York City is not paying attention.

If nothing else, this sad story would be a reminder of how tough it can be for prosecutors to pursue domestic violence cases.

But we also are stuck with one major political disaster. It's now up to the state Senate to decide what to do with Monserrate. They can let him off the hook, censure him, or kick him out of office.

The decision is complicated enormously by the fact that the Democrats' control over the state Senate is so tenuous that expelling Monserrate could make it impossible for anyone to cobble together a majority. This at a time when the state is facing enormous budget shortfalls. The legislature is going to need to make some tough decisions, something it usually finds impossible even when the deliberations are not complicated by domestic violence issues.

The public has very good reason to believe that anything goes in Albany, where indictments are as common as snow in the winter. But politicians generally get in trouble for misdeeds involving money, bad driving or adultery. The charges against Monserrate were shocking even to some of the people who would simply shrug at news that a colleague had been stealing public funds or maintaining a second family in the capital.

Ever since the case first became public, some of the women in the Senate have found it difficult to work with Monserrate around -- Liz Krueger of Manhattan was the first to call for him to be made to go away.

As a legislator, Monserrate is a train wreck. He defected to the Republicans for a while last year, part of an uprising-for-no-good-reason that brought whatever passes for progress in Albany to a standstill. Then he defected back, with a crazy story about doing it all in the name of reform and tenant rights.

As a private individual, he is either the most misunderstood person in the borough of Queens or a man in desperate need of an anger management program.

Monserrate is an ex-Marine who has claimed in the past that he suffers from post-traumatic stress. He is a former cop whose guns were seized by the NYPD after he applied for a disability pension, claiming he had an "anxiety disorder."

He began his political career in 2001 when he ran for City Council, and he was elected even though he had been arrested during the campaign, allegedly for running over a tow-truck driver who was attempting to repossess his car. The authorities never pursued those charges, or a couple of other prior arrests involving similar, but less dramatic allegations.

Five of Monserrate's fellow Democratic senators and other state Democratic officials have called on him to resign.

Fat chance.

We have yet to hear from the Democratic leadership of the Senate on the question of Monserrate's future, though there's talk of establishing a committee. When the judge in his trial came down with a verdict, the leaders in question were in China on an alleged trade mission.

Oh my Lord in heaven ...