Judge tosses suit by boxer Gatti’s daughter

Posted Feb. 10, 2012, at 6:59 p.m.

NEWARK, N.J. — The mother of late boxer Arturo Gatti’s daughter can’t sue his widow for wrongful death in New Jersey, a judge ruled in dismissing the lawsuit Friday.

Erika Rivera, a central New Jersey resident, filed the lawsuit last fall on behalf of then-5-year-old Sofia Bella Gatti. The suit blames Gatti’s widow, Amanda Rodrigues Gatti, for the charismatic boxer’s 2009 death.

Gatti’s body was found in July 2009 at an apartment he, his wife and their son had rented in the Brazilian seaside resort of Porto de Galihnas. Police initially held Rodrigues Gatti as a suspect but eventually released her and concluded Gatti hung himself from a staircase railing using a handbag strap.

That conclusion is disputed by Gatti’s former trainer and others, who commissioned an independent investigation that concluded physical evidence showed Gatti could not have committed suicide.

Attorneys for Gatti’s widow claimed New Jersey wasn’t the proper venue for Rivera’s lawsuit because his death occurred in Brazil and any witnesses would have to travel to New Jersey. On Friday, state Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman granted their motion to dismiss on those grounds. The lawsuit still could be brought in Brazil or Canada, where Rodrigues Gatti resides.

“We believe that we satisfied the requirements to demonstrate jurisdiction,” attorney Anthony Pope, representing Rivera, said in an email Friday. “We will, nevertheless, take counsel with our client and assess the best course of action for Sofia going forward.”

The Italian-born, Canadian-raised Gatti developed a large following in New Jersey, where he lived and trained beginning in the early 1990s. Nicknamed “Thunder,” he fought some of his most memorable fights at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, including a trilogy of slugfests with fellow 140-pounder Micky Ward beginning in 2002 that endeared him to fans.

His death also sparked a battle over his will. In December, a Canadian judge sided with his widow in a dispute with his family over the boxer’s $3.4 million estate. Gatti’s family argued unsuccessfully that he was duped into signing a will in 2009.

In addition, Rodrigues Gatti sued the New York Daily News, New York Post and Maxim magazine for libel over articles written in 2009 that described her as a former stripper. The sides have reached agreement in the lawsuit and are in the process of finalizing a settlement, her attorney, Mark Casazza, said Friday. Terms were being kept confidential, he said.

“I truly believe that justice has been served today,” Casazza said about Friday’s decision. “Amanda is a young woman who tragically became a widow to her beloved husband and a single parent to their son, Arturo, Jr. What she has been forced to endure since her husband’s passing has been unthinkable. I hope now she can get the closure that she deserves.”

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