State Senator, Wife Attacked At Western NY Casino

Published February 11, 2012 9:54PM (EST)

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — A state senator and his wife said Saturday they were attacked and beaten at a Niagara Falls casino Friday night after the lawmaker tried to break up an argument between two businessmen, one of whom accused him of hating the Indian tribe that runs the casino.

Sen. Mark Grisanti suffered bruised ribs in the altercation, the senator's chief of staff, Douglas Curella, said. His wife, Maria, was more seriously hurt. She was diagnosed Saturday morning with a concussion and possible broken nose, Curella said.

"It's just been horrible," Maria Grisanti said in a phone call from her Buffalo home after returning there from the hospital Saturday afternoon.

She and her husband had attended a fundraising gala for the Seneca Diabetes Foundation, where their daughter had performed with a singing group, at the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel Events Center. They were in a lobby area around 11 p.m. when they encountered two Seneca Nation businessmen who were arguing loudly.

According to Curella, Grisanti asked the men to calm down. Instead, one of them accused the senator of hating the Seneca tribe and punched him in the chest. Another blow landed on the back of his head. As the struggle intensified, two women who were with the businessmen then attacked Maria Grisanti, threw her to the ground and kicked her, Curella said.

Hotel security and Niagara Falls police broke up the fight. Commanders in the police department confirmed that there had been a melee at the casino, but said they couldn't immediately release information about it or say whether anyone was arrested.

Maria Grisanti woke up Saturday with a headache and a swollen face and sought medical attention, Curella said.

The Seneca Nation, which controls semi-autonomous territory in western New York, has been at odds with state lawmakers over a variety of issues related to its sovereignty, including revenue from tribal casinos and its right to sell cigarettes without collecting state taxes. The tribe owns the casino where the fight took place. Grisanti's western New York district includes Niagara Falls.

Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter released a statement Saturday expressing regret over the fight. He said he hoped Maria Grisanti was recovering quickly and noted that she had attended his inauguration in 2010.

"I would hope for better behavior and conduct from everyone at such an event as this, although it transpired sometime after the gala ended," he said. "Sadly, one cannot control individual behavior."

By Salon Staff

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