Injured lady plans to sue Francisco

Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2004

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The woman whose nose was broken when Texas reliever Frank Francisco threw a chair into the stands said Wednesday she plans to seek compensation for her injuries once prosecutors and baseball officials complete their investigation.

Francisco, who made his initial appearance in court Wednesday after police booked him on a charge of felony aggravated assault, also may file a civil suit, his attorney said.

Meanwhile, Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Norbert Chu said he needed more time to investigate before deciding whether to formally charge Francisco in the fracas. ''As of right now, charges have not been filed. The case is still under investigation,'' Chu said.

Jennifer Bueno, 41, appeared with her husband, Craig, at a news conference with a large white bandage covering her nose and purple rings under her eyes.

''We definitely feel the Texas Rangers are responsible for this and that they should pay for this,'' personal injury lawyer Gary Gwilliam said.

Francisco showed up 20 minutes early for his initial court appearance, trying to avoid photographers by holding his head in his hands as he sat in the hallway. He talked quietly with his agent, Richard Thompson, and a friend, Ray Ramirez, and made no comment to reporters before entering the courtroom. His next appearance was set for Oct. 29.

During Texas' 7-6, 10-inning loss to Oakland on Monday, Francisco threw a chair into the right-field box seats and hit two spectators in the head.

Craig Bueno acknowledged that, before the fracas, he was part of some ''bantering'' with the Rangers that included such taunts as ''Who is going to take the loss?'' and ''When are you going to lose?'' but ''no swear words.''

''It's an American tradition,'' the 42-year-old fire battalion chief said of his heckling, adding that he and his wife bought season tickets near the visitors' bullpen just ''so we can get on them a little bit.'' He said he had never been ejected from a game for being overly aggressive or rude toward players.

''It's part of going to the baseball game,'' said Jennifer Bueno, a homemaker who cares for the couple's three teenage sons. ''I don't think (Craig) did anything wrong.''

Craig Bueno said that when ''a sea of blue'' Rangers led by reliever Doug Brocail approached their seats, he ''took a defensive position'' by standing in front of his wife to shield her, but ducked when he saw the chair winging his way. Jennifer Bueno said she doesn't remember being struck, but that she was ''fearful for my life'' when the confrontation turned ugly.

She said ''it would be a little while'' before she attends A's games again.

Francisco's attorney, Rick Minkoff, gave a dramatically different account of what happened. He said Francisco rushed out of the dugout to defend his teammates, and was pushed up against a fence in the crush of fans and players.

''He was grabbed, hard and forcefully, on his left wrist. He didn't see who did it. Fortunately, it's not his pitching hand, and he was able to get free,'' Minkoff said outside court.

Minkoff said the fans are to blame, and that Francisco may sue in civil court. He wouldn't comment on who the targets might be.

The Athletics and the Rangers also disagreed over who was to blame for the altercation. David Rinetti, A's vice president of stadium operations, said Tuesday a review showed the fans' behavior wasn't over the line according to baseball's rules of conduct that are posted at every ballpark entrance.

He said the incident didn't turn violent until the Rangers players left the bullpen to approach the seats.

Texas manager Buck Showalter said his team has had problems in the past at the Oakland Coliseum, and asked for more security in the area where the altercation took place. Rinetti said neither he nor his security staff had been approached with such a request.

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