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I-Team Exclusive: State Supreme Court Judge Grisanti under investigation after brawl with neighbors

Neighbors have bruises, bite marks
Posted at 2:48 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 18:23:31-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — State Supreme Court Justice Mark Grisanti and his wife are under police investigation for allegedly assaulting their neighbors during a fight on their North Buffalo street Monday night, the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team has learned.

The fight, which appears to have erupted after a dispute over a parking spot in front of the Grisanti home, was caught on a surveillance camera mounted on the neighbors’ home.

7 Eyewitness News viewed the footage, which shows Grisanti and his wife, Maria, walk onto the driveway of Gina Mele and her husband. The Meles live across the street on Duluth Avenue. Pushing and shoving ensues before punches are thrown and a string of expletives are unleashed by both parties.

“They started swearing, ‘Move this F-ing truck,” Mele said. “Mark and Maria came over, onto our property, in our husband came down from the porch, Maria physically pushed my husband, she punched my husband in the face. I came off the porch, told her not to touch my husband, and she bit my husband’s arm and would not release.”

Mele was left with a large bruise on her left forearm where she said Maria Grisanti grabbed her. Mele’s husband, Joseph - who was hospitalized after the fight - had a black eye and bite marks on his arm, which he said were also from Maria Grisanti.

At one point in the video, Maria Grisanti can be seen being put in a Buffalo police cruiser in handcuffs. Mark Grisanti, who engaged in a struggle with Joseph Mele, is shirtless and shouting in front of his house. Mele said Mark Grisanti was also placed into a police cruiser.

“They were very, very intoxicated,” Mele said. “Mark was trying to fight with my husband, swinging at my husband. My husband just kind of held him down, did not hit him at all...held him down just to stop it.”

Buffalo Police spokesman Capt. Jeff Rinaldo confirmed the investigation of the incident but said he could not comment on it.

“It’s being worked on as we speak,” he said.

Joseph Fahey, Chief of Police in the D District, told Mele during a phone call witnessed by the I-Team that police notified the Erie County District Attorney’s Office about the incident.

A spokeswoman for the DA’s office said she would look into the matter and report back.

Maria Grisanti answered the door at the Grisanti home Wednesday morning but declined to comment. She said reporters should talk to neighbors who would speak on her and her husband’s behalf and in opposition to the Meles’ account.

“They saw it all,” Maria Grisanti said. “I don’t care what their video says or shows, honestly.”

Asked if her husband would give his side of the story, she said he also declined to comment.

“He’s busy right now,” Maria Grisanti said. “He’s working.”

This is not the first time an altercation involving Grisanti and his wife has spilled out into public view.

Grisanti was injured in a 2012 scuffle at the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls in which he said he and his wife were attacked and beaten during a confrontation with members of the Seneca Nation of Indians. He was a New York State Senator at the time.

Grisanti, a Republican, lost his senate seat to Democrat Marc Panepinto in 2014 but was appointed to a Court of Claims judgeship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015.

The post came with a $174,000 salary, and Grisanti now serves in an acting capacity as a State Supreme Court judge.

Mele said she and her husband have had disputes with the Grisantis stretching back years. She said Grisanti has at times tried to use his political positions to threaten her and her husband, and did so again on Monday.

“Mark was shouting, ‘I’m a judge. Do you know who I am?’” Mele said. “He was saying, ‘Let my wife out of the car. I’m going to have your job.’”

Mele said police officers at the scene handcuffed Grisanti and his wife after she said they allegedly resisted officers. She said officers at the scene told her to call Buffalo Police back the next day to get a police report. Mele said she did so but was told there was no report because there were no arrests.

Mele said she did not understand why Grisanti and his wife were not arrested on site if they resisted police officers.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve had an incident with them that things have been brushed under the rug,” Mele said. “That makes me think there’s something going on.”