Published February 11, 2012
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – A state senator and his wife said Saturday they were attacked and beaten at a Niagara Falls casino hotel after the lawmaker tried to break up an argument between two men, one of whom accused him of hating the Indian tribe that owned the resort.
Sen. Mark Grisanti said he suffered bruised ribs in the Friday night altercation. His wife, Maria, was more seriously hurt. She was diagnosed Saturday morning with a concussion and possible broken nose.
"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 said that during the attack, she feared for her life.
The fight happened following a fundraising gala for the Seneca Diabetes Foundation at the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel Events Center. The Grisantis attended because their daughter was part of the entertainment for the night, performing with the Buffalo singing act, the Scintas.
They were in a lobby area around 11:30 p.m. when they encountered two men arguing loudly.
Grisanti said he thought the men were about to come to blows, so he asked them to calm down.
"I probably just should have walked away," he said.
One of the men demanded to know his name. When he identified himself, he said the man hurled a curse word, accused him of hating the Seneca Nation and punched him in the chest. Then, Grisanti said, a woman with the man socked him in the side of the head.
As the men scuffled, Maria Grisanti said she was attacked by two women who appeared to be with the man fighting with her husband. She said she was thrown to the ground and then punched while one of the women pulled her hair out and repeatedly slammed her head on the floor.
"They were big, too. Maybe six feet tall," she said.
Niagara Falls police confirmed that there had been a melee at the casino, but said they couldn't immediately release information or say whether anyone was arrested.
Mark Grisanti said the man who attacked him left the hotel without being detained. He said police told him security camera video of the altercation was "inconclusive." He said he believed one of the women had been charged with disorderly conduct, but for a separate fracas with security guards.
The couple didn't initially seek medical care, but Maria Grisanti went to the hospital Saturday after waking up with a headache and a bruised and swollen face.
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."
Mark Grisanti said that he didn't blame the tribe for what happened.
"We've always had a great relationship," he said.
"It was just a very strange night," the senator added.