Skip to comments.Prosecutors Urge 10-Year Term in R.I. Fire - SENTENCED to 15 Years, 11 years suspended, 3 yrs. Prob.
Posted on 05/10/2006 1:32:59 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Prosecutors urged a judge Wednesday to send a former rock-band manager to prison for 10 years for setting off the pyrotechnics that caused a nightclub fire that killed 100 people.
"The devastation wrought by the conduct of the defendant is unparalleled in our state's history," prosecutor Randall White said, choking up at times. He added: "The suffering is endless, and the extent and depth of the pain is bottomless."
Daniel Biechele's attorney, Thomas Briody, argued that his client deserves mercy in the form of community service, with no prison time and feels immense sorrow for his role in the blaze.
"I ask you to consider this: Dan Biechele is the only man in this tragedy to stand up and say I did something wrong," Briody said. "He's the only man to say, `I apologize.'"
Biechele, 29, was the tour manager for the band Great White the night of Feb. 20, 2003, when he lit a pyrotechnics display that ignited flammable foam lining the walls and ceiling of The Station nightclub in West Warwick. Flames and toxic smoke quickly engulfed the club.
Families of nearly half the people killed spent two days offering Superior Court Judge Frances Darigan Jr. anguished testimony about the lives shattered by the tragedy.
Claire Bruyere, whose daughter, Bonnie Lynn Hamelin, 27, was among those killed, said her daughter was her best friend.
"Now all I have to look forward to is death, so we can be together again," Bruyere said.
Prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence allowed under a deal they struck with Biechele in February, when he pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
The owners of club, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, are accused of installing the flammable foam. They have pleaded not guilty to 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter two counts for each person killed, under separate legal theories.
Michael Derderian's trial is scheduled for July 31; no trial date has been set for his brother.
Daniel Biechele, former tour manager for the rock band Great White, wipes his eye during the state's sentencing argument Wednesday, May 10, 2006 in Providence, R.I. after he pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the wake of the Feb. 20, 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I. Biechele set off a pyrotechnics display during the concert, igniting a fire that swiftly enveloped the crowded nightclub and killed 100 people. (AP Photo/Barry Chin, Pool)
Sentenced to four years. Suspended sentence for 11. Just came down.
Negligent homicide is weird like that. It involves someone doing something stupid that just happens to kill people by accident. Sentencing someone for stupidity is tricky.
IIRC, weren't the "nightclub's" emergency exit doors locked or barred, so that there was only one exit? (Or was that Jesse HiJackson's buddies in Chicago?) Where are the club owners doing prison time?
I think the club's stage manager has some culpability in all this, too.
Sounds about right to me. Wasn't intentional.
Victims' families and friends look on in the courtroom during the state's sentencing argument for Daniel Biechele, former tour manager for the rock band Great White, in Providence, R.I. Wednesday, May 10, 2006, after he pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the wake of the Feb. 20, 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I. Biechele set off a flashy pyrotechnics display during the concert, igniting a fire that swiftly enveloped the crowded nightclub and killed 100 people. (AP Photo/Barry Chin, Pool)
The site of the Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I. is still covered with crosses and memorials to the victims after three years later, as seen Tuesday, May 9, 2006. After listening to two days of grief-stricken testimony, the band manager who started a Rhode Island nightclub fire that killed 100 people broke down for the first time Tuesday as the father of the youngest victim spoke of forgiveness. (AP Photo/Joe Giblin)
The video at the start of the fire says it all.
Good heavens, woman! Mourn, weep, cry. Then, get up and get on with life. I'm sure your deceased daughter isn't cheering for you to live out your life in misery. A tragic death is not an excuse for you to have a tragic life.
AP: Ex-Band Manager Gets 4 Years in R.I. Fire
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A former band manager who set off pyrotechnics that sparked the nation's fourth-deadliest nightclub fire, killing 100 concertgoers in 2003, is sentenced to four years in prison.
Breaking news! Nance Grace spewing ranting emotional nonsense about the verdict on Court TV.
Biechele gets 4 years to serve
04:32 PM EDT on Wednesday, May 10, 2006
PROVIDENCE -- Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan today sentenced Daniel Biechele to 15 years in prison, with four to serve and 11 years suspended, for his role in setting off the disastrous Station nightclub fire.
His decision came after a tearful plea from Biechele, who had been charged with 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter, and an hour each of arguments by the prosecution and defense.
"The greatest sentence that can be imposed on you has been imposed on you by yourself," Darigan told Biechele, as he stood before the judge in court.
In handing down the much-anticipated sentence, Darigan noted Biechele's sense of remorse, good background, potential for rehabilitation and willingness to accept responsibility. He also took great pains to explain the differences between charges related to causing the death of another, from murder to involuntary manslaughter.
The sentencing follows two days of statements by relatives about the fire's victims, statements that sometimes drew laughter and often provoked tears in describing how those who died have been missed and what had made them so special.
It also comes more than three years after the Feb. 20, 2003, fire at the West Warwick club -- the worst in the state's history. It was a blaze that touched every niche of this small state. And it caught the attention of a nation, inspiring reforms of club safety rules and fire codes.
I watched part of this on Courttv the other day. It seems that there are lax inspectors, poor bar management, etc. that may have a hand in the blame as well. Even the father of one of the deceased said that they needed to go after some of the other folks, not just this guy.
I'm sure most of the families are angry at the sentence, but if (and I didn't hear all the testimony) the defendant was given the go ahead by bar management, and he had done this sort of pyrotechnics before in similar clubs, I don't know that a long sentence is the right punishment. I'll be honest and say I don't know if I'd feel the same way if my child or spouse had died in the fire.
I agree. This man has ruined his own life through his carelessness, and he had no intention of harming anyone. I think the jail sentence is appropriate, though I can imagine that the families don't think so.
Hence the charge of involuntary manslaughter rather than voluntary manslaughter.
How did that ever pass fire code inspection?
Sounds like a repeat of the Coconut Grove fire.
The immediate reaction, from what I saw and heard watching on TV, was subdued. Perhaps it was relief maybe even shock. There didn't appear to be much anger from the family towards this individual.
"Sentencing someone for stupidity is tricky."
I agree. You want a sufficintly harsh penalty -- not so much to punish as to make an example for others. I'm sure that the band manager realized that he had f'd up, and was sorry for it, just as soon as it happened. The bar owners should get harsher penalties, in my book, for using flammable materials inside the club. The Cocoanut Grove fire was a long time ago, and not too far from R.I. I thought that the lessons learned in that fire would stay learned. Apparently not.
Ex-Band Manager Gets 4 Years in R.I. Fire
ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press Writer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A former rock-band manager whose pyrotechnics caused a nightclub fire that killed 100 people was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison.
Daniel Biechele, 29, could have gotten as much as 10 years behind bars under a deal he struck with prosecutors in February, when he pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
"The greatest sentence that can be imposed upon you, has been imposed upon you by yourself," Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan Jr. told Biechele, drawing sobs and groans from some of those in the courtroom.
The sentence came after two days of anguished testimony from the victims' families, who told of college graduations they would never see, grandchildren they would never hold, and grief so powerful that they could not get out of bed in the morning and looked forward to death to be reunited with their loved ones.
Biechele was the tour manager for heavy metal band Great White when on Feb. 20, 2003, he lit a pyrotechnics display that ignited highly flammable foam that lined the walls and ceiling of The Station nightclub in West Warwick. The foam was used as soundproofing and was placed there by the owners after neighbors complained about noise from the club.
Many of the 100 people who were killed that night either were quickly overcome by fumes emitted by the foam or became trapped in a crush at the front door.
He is the first person to be sentenced for the fire. The owners of the club are awaiting trial on manslaughter charges.
2 more trials lay ahead, one for each of the club owners.
I've been following the case more or less .
I read the article and it just heart breaking, everybody looses in this situation. it almost brought me to tears reading about all these families loosing family members like that.
Nevermind; I read the end of the article.
NOTE TO SELF: read whole article before posting!
"Where are the club owners doing prison time?"
They have not yet been tried. Obviously their guilt is much greater than this man's. I suppose this sentence is just, he did not mean to harm anyone.
The owners however, they could be put away forever as far as I'm concerned. Anyone who locks a fire exit, for whatever reason, is responsible for anything bad that happens as a result of that. If you don't want folks sneaking in the exits hire a security person, if you can't afford to do that, get out of the business.
The textured shipping foam the cheap morons bought looks very much like molded acoustic foam panels.
If the prosecution are allowed to play portions of the footage shot that night for a jury it's going to be hard for the club ownwer's to get off...
This tragic story strikes me as a normal guy who made a very careless decision while trying to enhance the rock n' roll entertainment for the crowd. Assuming he is not a sociopath, the thoughts that likely torment his every waking moment are probably relentless.
All things considered, I would categorize a robber who stabs someone to death in the commission of a crime to be the worse criminal. This guy didn't plan his night around how he could kill a bunch of people.
~ Blue Jays ~
It's a terrible tragedy, no doubt about it.
Or even hurt anyone (assuming, as you say, he's not a sociopath). I agree with your assessment, Blue Jays. It's a terrible tragedy, and I'm sure the families' hearts will ache forever, but according to what you've written, they seem to realize it was an accident and not intentional.
I wasn't privvy to the original trial, but my understanding of involuntary manslaughter laws is that the prosecution must show that a reasonable person would have been able to foresee that the defendant's actions could cause death in roughly the same fashion that death actually occurred.
I would have argued (I don't know if the defense did) that while a reasonable person would have expected that the fireworks could cause a fire, a reasonable person would not have foreseen that such a fire could within three seconds grow beyond the abilities of fire extinguishers to deal with.
I don't know how Rhode Island's murder/manslaughter laws work, but that sounds about right. Accidentally discharging a gun and having the bullet fly a few blocks away and land on someone is negligent homicide / involuntary manslaughter (whatever your jurisdiction calls it); without getting into quantum of proof, I imagine that the standard for criminal negligence would be a bit higher than for civil negligence. I just can't see someone who designed a faulty gas tank or something being found guilty of negligent homicide if it killed someone.
There was no trial; this was a plea bargain: he agreed to plead guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter, the DA agreed that his sentence couldn't be higher than 10 years.
Guess I can't really fault the guy for accepting the plea, though I would expect that with a good defense he could have escaped the manslaughter charges. The argument should have been that no reasonable building material would have gone up in flames as the stage wall did; although gerbs can start fires, in the absense of highly-inflammable materials such fires would not pose an excessive danger to human life.
Big darned ditto to that, j.