ALBANY—He talked about it, and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith decided newly indicted State Senator Hiram Monserrate will temporarily step down from his position as chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee.
"Today, Senator Monserrate and I met to discuss the proceedings he is facing," Smith said in a statement. "As a result of this meeting, Senator Monserrate asked to temporarily step down as Chair of the Senate's Consumer Affairs Committee. I have accepted his request and such action is effective immediately. Senator Monserrate will retain his duties as a member of the State Senate during this time, but will not have the privilege of serving as chair until such time as his legal proceedings have been completely resolved."
NY1's Josh Robin coaxed Monserrate into giving a (brief) interview to a couple of us outside the Senate chamber. He didn't say too much when Robin asked him about calls for his resignation.
"The reality is that from the very beginning, I said this was an accident. My girlfriend said this was an accident, and we look forward to the dismissal of these charges based on the truth. Thank you very much," he said.
I asked whether he intended, then, to let the truth come out in court, rejecting any potential plea agreements in the matter.
"We are fully prepared to see that the truth prevails and we look forward to the dismissal of these charges based on the truth. I'm here doing the good work of my constituents, I will continue to do so, and I expect to be doing it for many more years."
Monserrate had been sitting with colleague and fellow gang-of-four member Ruben Diaz Sr., who jumped in front of the camera to ask why, if both Monserrate and his girlfriend said it was an accident, the incident was being prosecuted. He asked why it was different than the case against Lehman Brothers bankruptcy Judge James Peck.
"Why are we dropping the charges against the white judge, but not the Hispanic politician?" he asked. Robin asked if reported surveillance tapes might have something to do with it.
"Surveillance tapes? I don't know," Diaz Sr. replied. He noted that there were tapes in the Rodney King case, but the officers accused of assaulting him were found innocent. "Maybe it shows they want to take him to the hospital," Diaz Sr. said.
Most other members were not speaking about the deliberations over Monserrate in a closed-door conference. State Senator Liz Krueger got into a testy exchange with Fred Dicker over the subject, with Dicker telling her to "enjoy your lollipop" when she said "no comment." (There was a lollipop in her hand at the time.)
Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran said the work of the consumer affairs committee would be supervised by the secretary's office.