Freshman Sen. Hiram Monserrate of Queens was found not guilty on two felony charges today in connection with injuries sustained by his girlfriend, which means will not automatically lose his seat.
The freshman Democratic senator was found guilty of misdemeanor assault against his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, and not guilty of another misdemeanor, which leaves open the possibility that lawmakers could petition to oust him from the Senate. Sentencing is Dec. 4, and Monserrate could face up to a year in prison.
State law prohibits lawmakers convicted of felonies from staying in office.
The stakes have been high not just for Monserrate but for Senate Democrats, who hold a slim 32-30 majority.
Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, said in a statement today that he and other Democratic leaders are discussing whether disciplinary action by the Senate would be appropriate.
“Accusations against public officials are of the utmost concern to everyone in a just and civil society and I take them very seriously. A court of law has now ruled and we respect the decision rendered by the justice system,” he said.
The chamber was thrown into chaos for a month when the 30 GOP senators allied themselves with Monserrate and Sen. Pedro Espada, D-Bronx, to take control of the Senate.
Soon after, Monserrate jumped back to the Democratic side. Espada ultimately agreed to return to the Democratic fold and became majority leader. But the coup paralyzed the Senate for a month between June and July.
Monserrate was charged following a Dec. 19, 2008 incident in which he said he was bringing his girlfriend a glass of water and tripped, accidentally cutting her face. Giraldo originally said Monserrate had attacked her, but she later changed her story and said it was an accident.
The senator opted to have a non-jury trial, and state Supreme Court Justice William Erlbaum issued an oral verdict in Queens today.