October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Many, if not all, of the Bronx’s elected officials have hosted, or attended, events and rallies designed to shed light on the crime (which is more prevalent in the Bronx than elsewhere in the city), honor the victims, and condemn the perpetrators.
It’s been interesting, then, following local pols’ reaction – or lack of reaction – to the conviction last week of State Sen. Hiram Monserrate of Queens, who was found guilty of misdemeanor assault of his girlfriend.
With the exception of Jeff Klein, none of Monserrate’s Senate colleagues here in the Bronx have been willing to criticize him, at least publicly, let alone demand his removal from office.
State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., for one, seems amused, not angry. “We are still the Four Amigos!” Diaz told reporters – a reference to himself, Monserrate, Pedro Espada, and Carl Kruger – after Monserrate was found not-guilty of the more serious felony assault charge, which would have forced him to step down.
Diaz later sent out a press release, which said, in part: “Senator Monserrate was found guilty of trying to do good by forcing his girlfriend to go to the hospital for treatment.” He said he hopes to officiate at Monserrate's wedding. (As columnist Clyde Haberman notes in today's Times, it can't be easy planning a wedding when the groom and bride aren't allowed to talk to each other.)
Espada, another friend of Monserrate's (the two men helped bring the Senate to a standstill this summer), is similarly nonplussed by the conviction. "As it relates to Albany business, I think it's something that should be put behind us now," Espada said, according to The Buffalo News.
Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who chairs the Senate’s domestic violence task force, insists no one is "anxious to see this swept under the rug." But, at the same time, she hasn't exactly rushed out to reproach her colleague. She believes the Senate should wait until December, when Monserrate is sentenced, to decide how to punish him.
Jose M. Serrano, meanwhile, has yet to speak on the matter. And neither has Eric Schneiderman, although he’s been tapped to lead a committee that will consider possible disciplinary action against Monserrate.
Council members Annabel Palma and Melissa Mark-Viverito just released a joint statement which said, in part:
Hiram has broken the public’s trust and it is our hope that he will now demonstrate leadership by stepping down from his position. Remaining in office would be a disservice to his district and his constituents.