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No charges to be filed in casino incident; Grisanti disagrees, but 'respects process'

No charges will be filed in the fight at the Seneca Niagara Casino two weeks ago that left State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti's wife with a concussion and a badly bruised nose and then snowballed into a national news story, officials announced Friday.

Calling the fight an "unfortunate incident" in a prepared statement, Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante and Niagara Falls Police Capt. William Thomson declared: "This case is closed."

Violante and Thomson identified the people involved in the incident as Mark and Maria Grisanti; Seneca businessman Eric White; his wife, Kristina; and Eric White's sister, Ellen Heron.

Police said they took statements from witnesses and participants at the scene and reviewed a video of the incident.

"Approximately two weeks have passed since the incident, giving those of us involved with this investigation ample time to review the statements of the witnesses and participants and all other relevant evidence," the statment said.

It continues: "Subsequently it is the determination of the Niagara County District Attorney's Office as well as that of the Niagara Falls Police Department that no charges will be filed on behalf of any participant in this incident."

Grisanti, in a statement released later Friday, said he disagreed with the DA's decision not to press charges, but respects the legal process.

"It is disappointing that enough evidence could not be collected to charge the people who attacked and injured my wife," Grisanti said. "My only priority in all of this has been the well-being of my wife, Maria, and that does not change with the DA's decision."

Grisanti added: "We have been entirely consistent and truthful in this matter. The inaccurate allegations that were reported against us have also been squashed."

Meanwhile, Attorney Paul J. Cambria Jr., who represents the Whites, always contended there was no basis to charge his clients because they committed no crime.

"As long as it's fair on both sides, in the sense that neither side is going to be permitted to file charges, it seems to me that's an OK thing," Cambria said Friday.

"Now, whether or not Mr. and Mrs. White want to pursue civil action is another matter," Cambria said.

The announcement from the DA did not come as a surprise.

Just days after the incident, Niagara Falls police indicated there was a good chance no one would end up being arrested. Bar fights involving multiple parties are notoriously hard to prosecute. Police also said surveillance video from the casino did not show who started the fight.

Mark and Maria Grisanti were at the casino the night of Feb. 10 to watch Maria Grisanti's daughter sing at a black tie gala for the Seneca Diabetes Foundation.

After the event, the Grisantis and other people in their party came downstairs to a lobby bar, where Mark Grisanti apparently was going to buy a round of drinks.

Somehow, he got between two Seneca businessmen, Eric White and Seth Snyder, who were in the middle of an argument that was becoming heated.

By all accounts, Grisanti tried to intervene.

Then, things turned ugly.

According to Grisanti, he was punched in the chest and, as he was walking away, someone else hit him in the head. His wife, who apparently came to his aid, was then pulled to the floor and two or three women got on top of her, slamming her head into the floor and punching her.

Casino security guards restrained Grisanti several times but he managed to break free from them. Grisanti has said he fought with the guards because he wanted to help his wife. These images were caught by a cellphone video provided to The Buffalo News.

Others have accused the Grisantis of being the aggressors, saying the legislator should have stayed out of the businessmen's argument.

Eric White's wife, Kristina, told The News that the senator had punched her husband as they were trying to leave the casino after the altercation, and that she was struck in the face by the same blow.

White also is believed to have wrestled on the floor with Snyder.

On Feb. 15, Mark and Maria Grisanti gave statements to police about their version of what happened at the casino and told officers they wanted to press charges against the women who attacked Maria Grisanti.

Previously, Grisanti had said he would not seek charges for any alleged assaults against him but that his family would make a decision together about pressing for charges stemming from the attack on his wife.

None of the other people involved in the fight gave formal statements to the police after the incident, nor did they formally ask for charges to be filed against either of the Grisantis.

While no one is being charged in the actual fight, one woman, Christina Schindler, 39, was charged with disorderly conduct in the aftermath of the scuffle. A casino guard had asked her to leave the bar. She reportedly refused, swearing at the guard and using racial epithets against him.

News staff reporter Jay Rey contributed to this story.