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Woman claims self-defense in fight Accused of cutting another woman in the eye during altercation <br>

Suzanne-Deanna Grover was defending herself when she cut Lindsay Harmon in the eye early Jan. 1 at a downtown Buffalo nightclub parking lot, her attorney said Friday.

Harmon and several of her girlfriends began "kicking and stomping" her after an altercation, defense attorney Debra K. Bender said outside a courtroom Friday.

During her arraignment Friday, Grover pleaded not guilty to a felony assault indictment. State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller ordered Grover to remain jailed.

Prosecutor Michael J. Flaherty Jr. described Grover, 21, as a "flight risk" because she had moved to Florida after the incident outside Roxie's. But the judge ruled the $75,000 bail set two months ago "will stand."

Flaherty and Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III declined to comment on the defense attorney's claims that Grover was acting in self-defense. Grover could face seven years in prison if convicted.

The grand jury rejected hate-crime charges in the case, linked to allegations that Grover directed sexual epithets at Harmon, 29, who has lost sight in her right eye.

Sedita told The Buffalo News this week that Flaherty presented "every known and available eyewitness" to the grand jury, and there was insufficient evidence that the crime was motivated by "the victim's sexual orientation."

Bender said Grover, who has a 4-year-old son, moved to Jacksonville, Fla., fearing that associates of then-jailed murder suspect Jerome Thagard were out to get her because of her impending testimony in the slaying of Steven Northrup, 31, Grover's boyfriend. Thagard, 17, was convicted of second-degree murder and weapons charges Jan. 25 in the fatal shooting last April 29 in a field near the Shaffer Village housing complex in Riverside. He awaits sentencing.

Her attorney also noted Grover returned to Buffalo for testimony Jan. 20, only to be arrested five days later.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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