Monserrate Girlfriend Stumbles in Civil Suit

     MANHATTAN (CN) – The 2nd Circuit dealt a blow to the civil rights complaint of a woman who was interrogated after her boyfriend, a New York state senator, cut her with a broken glass.
     On Dec. 19, 2008, with just days to go before the start of his first term as a Queens senator, Hiram Monserrate brought his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, to the emergency room to treat deep lacerations above her eye that required 20 stitches.
     Giraldo repeatedly claimed that she had been injured by “accident” when Monserrate brought her a glass of water that broke, sending shards into her forehead.
     She says police nevertheless held her against her will for over five hours, and then brought to her to face another two hours of interrogation from Assistant District Attorneys Scott Evan Kessler and Keshia Espinal.
     Monserrate was meanwhile arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree felony assault and one count of misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.
     In 2009, he was convicted on one count of misdemenour assault, and the Senate expelled him. Currently awaiting sentencing, Monserrate pleaded guilty this May to fraudulently misusing City Council money to fund his political campaign.
     Giraldo still sticks to her story that she had not been the victim of the crime, however. She says officers detained her in violation of her civil rights, and that the ordeal occurred out of a prosecutorial “conspiracy to ‘create statements that would falsely implicate [Monserrate] of a crime.'”
     U.S. District Judge John Gleeson refused to grant absolute immunity to Kessler and Espinal after finding that their “conduct in this case [was] more closely linked to the prosecutor[s’] investigative duties [rather] than to [their] role as government litigator[s].”
     Legally, absolute immunity protects only their role as litigators, not their role in building a case, Gleeson found.
     He added that Giraldo had stated a plausible claim for being “unlawfully detained, held against her will and maliciously interrogated.”
     The federal appeals court reversed Friday, however, after finding that Monseratte’s arrest dispels arguments that the interrogation occurred as part of an investigation.
     “Legal decisions at the core of the prosecutorial function – pursuit of the charges, arraignment, bail, etc. – had to be made,” Judge Ralph Winter wrote for a three-member panel.
     In fact, Giraldo’s insistence “that her injuries were the result of an accident might well cause a reasonable prosecutor to believe that interrogation was even more necessary,” to assess for themselves if her story was credible, the decision states.
     After vacating the denial of absolute immunity, the court remanded the case for further proceedings.

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