Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 13, 2012

Falls cops handling Grisanti assault

Senator denies hitting anyone after incident; request made for security camera tapes

NIAGARA FALLS — Niagara Falls Police have taken over the investigation of an assault on State Sen. Mark Grisanti at the Seneca Niagara Casino Friday night.

Police Superintendent John Chella said the state’s Gaming Compact with the Seneca Nation of Indians gives local police jurisdiction over crimes committed off the gaming floor in the casino. The casino sits on land that is the sovereign territory of the Senecas.

“We have the jurisdiction to investigate if it happened outside the gaming floors, if it happened where there are gaming tables or slots, then the investigation would be done by the State Police,” Chella said.

The New York State Police have a dedicated squad of investigators assigned full time to the casino.

Meanwhile in Albany on Monday, Grisanti disputed a woman’s claim that he punched her and her husband as they left the building.

"I didn't hit anybody after the incident," Grisanti told reporters.

Grisanti said he was trying to defuse an argument between two men at the tribal casino when he was punched in the chest and head. His wife, Maria, said she was attacked by two women who slammed her head on the floor.

Surveillance video from casino security cameras shows a woman in a purple dress approaching Grisanti’s wife, Maria, in a “threatening manner.” The video shows an altercation between Maria Grisanti and the unidentified woman and then shows Grisanti falling to the floor with the woman in the purple dress on top of her.

While Falls police detectives have viewed the surveillance video, they don’t have a copy of it.

“We will make a formal written request for a copy of that video,” Chella said. “We have spoken to casino security and we expect that they will provide (the video). They are being very cooperative.”

In a police report, a 29-year-old woman said she was escorting her husband, who had injured his knee, out of the casino's hotel lounge when Grisanti ran over and hit them.

On Monday, Grisanti denied hitting anyone after the fight. While it was under way, he said, he repeatedly broke away from security guards who were trying to restrain him as he tried to get to his wife.

"I went in there and was making these sweeping motions to clear people out," he said. "If somebody got hit in any circumstance, whatsoever, it's too bad because my wife was on the bottom in that pile and I would do it again in a heartbeat."

Grisanti was expected to give his statement to police later in the week, Capt. William Thomson said.

Asked whether security video showed Maria Grisanti being thrown to the ground, Thomson said, "I don't think she was slammed to the ground, but during an altercation, she ended up on the ground."

Chella said once detectives identify everyone involved in the incident and interview them, they’ll meet with Niagara County District Attorney Michael Violante to determine if any charges will be placed.

Maria Grisanti suffered a concussion and a possible broken nose in the attack. Those injuries would be sufficient for a misdemeanor assault charge.

Grisanti called the attack on his wife, “a horrific scene.”

“One woman right on top of her, grabbing her with handfuls of hair in both hands, and slamming her head consistently on the ground. When another woman — and I use those terms loosely — was punching her in the face and in the side of the head,” the senator said.

Maria Grisanti said, “I thought I was going to die underneath those girls. I seriously did. I just kept getting slammed. I can't even explain it. And then ... I literally heard my hair being ripped out of my head.”

Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter denounced the attack and said he called the Grisantis to offer an apology.

Grisanti said the incident should not reflect on the Seneca Nation.

“This should be no reflection on the Seneca Nation of Indians itself. It was an unfortunate circumstance.” he said.

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