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Old 05-11-2006, 09:00 AM   #1
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Five Days In Jail For Each Life

The band manager for Great White was sentenced to only 4 years yesterday out of a possible ten per his plea agreement-he lit the pyrotechnics that caused the fire at the Station nightclub in RI which killed 100 people in Feb of 2003. He could be out on parole in 16 months, that would be the five days for each life if that happens.

I can't imagine the pain of the family members, on the other hand I do agree with what the judge said-the worst punishment for him will ultimately be living with what he did every day. But how do the families get past it if he gets out in 16 months, do they think that's all their loved ones were worth in the eyes of the law? Will the owners get the same lighter sentence?

I'll never forget the one woman who said in her victim impact statement that what was left of her child was in a pouch.

Inadvertently? Yes he didn't intend to start a fire and kill people, but the foam on the walls and ceiling was obvious from everything I've read-and there's the whole issue of permits, etc. They had no moral right using pyrotechnics in a place like that, even if somehow they can get around the legal stuff. But I guess the legal stuff is what will save their behinds, even the owners.


Boston Herald

Relatives of the 100 concert-goers who perished in the Rhode Island night club inferno vented rage last night after learning the band manager who inadvertently killed their loved ones could serve only five days behind bars for each death.
“Damn. It’s like nothing,” said Michelle Hoell, sister of 29-year-old Tammy Mattera-Housa, who was killed in the Feb. 20, 2003, blaze at The Station nightclub in West Warwick.
“It makes it even more depressing . . . her two children deserve more,” Hoell said. “Five days. . . . It’s almost the same amount of time it took to confirm she wasn’t coming home.”
Great White band manager Daniel Biechele, who lit the pyrotechnics that sparked the fire, could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in jail under a plea deal with prosecutors but now will be eligible for parole in just 16 months with good behavior. That would be less than 500 days, or five days per victim.
When the sentence for involuntary manslaughter - 15 years with 11 of them suspended - was handed down, the courtoom erupted with emotion.
“Typical (expletive) Rhode Island!” one man yelled, as outraged relatives stormed out.
Biechele had listened contritely to two days of presentencing testimony from distraught family members.
“What do you think of your son now?” Patricia Belanger shouted to Biechele’s mother. Belanger, the mother of victim Dina Ann DeMaio, 30, said, “Now it’s her turn to suffer, just like we’ve been suffering because of her son.”
“We’ve already suffered almost that long - four years. We’ve already suffered that long,” said Annmarie Swidwa, the mother of victim Bridget Sanetti, 25.
Biechele apologized for the blaze, saying, “I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive myself for what happened that night, so I can’t expect anyone else to. I never wanted anyone to be hurt in any way.”
In powerful family testimony, some described a grief so intense they could not get out of bed, and said they looked forward to nothing but being reunited in death.
Judge Francis Darigan Jr. told Biechele, “The greatest sentence that can be imposed upon you has been imposed upon you by yourself, that is having to live a life, an entire life, knowing that your actions were the proximate cause of the deaths of 100 people.”
The Station owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian are now awaiting trial for manslaughter. After the pyrotechnics ignited soundproofing foam, many of the 100 dead were overcome by fumes or were trapped in a crush at the door.
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Old 05-11-2006, 09:08 AM   #2
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I'm sorry for the families, but whether he gets out in 16 months or 160,000 years, those people are not coming back.

The lack of "intent," combined with his guilty plea, reflects the sentence he received. "Vengeance" should have little place in sentencing guidelines.

As for the nightclub owners, a lot is going to depend on how well the building conformed to safety laws. Rhode Island either needs to update its laws (which I'm sure they have since then), or they need to spend the time and money to enforce those laws.

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Old 05-11-2006, 09:21 AM   #3
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I agree with melon.

The guy had no "intent" on killing these people. He didn´t act in "bad faith".
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Old 05-11-2006, 09:24 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
I'm sorry for the families, but whether he gets out in 16 months or 160,000 years, those people are not coming back.

The lack of "intent," combined with his guilty plea, reflects the sentence he received. "Vengeance" should have little place in sentencing guidelines.

As for the nightclub owners, a lot is going to depend on how well the building conformed to safety laws. Rhode Island either needs to update its laws (which I'm sure they have since then), or they need to spend the time and money to enforce those laws.

Melon
You are very right Melon.

From my experience from working for many years in the concert business, I know that any show involving pyrotechnics has to undergo rigorous inspection and scrutiny from police and fire department authorities.

If the GW manager lit the pyrotechnics after receiving assurances and certification attesting to the safety of the venue, then as tragic as it is, I don't really see why he should have been prosecuted at all - its the venues fault for not getting clearance.

If, on the other hand, he lit the pyrotechnics knowing that it was unsafe, thus jeapordizing hundreds of peoples lives, then, yes, its a joke of a sentence and its a mockery of justice.

However, I do believe that he wasn't as liable as the venue owner and, in my opinion, the owner should be given a much harsher sentence.
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Old 05-11-2006, 09:25 AM   #5
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He lit the fuse, but the nightclub owners installed flammable material as soundproofing.

I'd rather see the owners get 15 years each...
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Old 05-11-2006, 09:35 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by AchtungBono

If, on the other hand, he lit the pyrotechnics knowing that it was unsafe, thus jeapordizing hundreds of peoples lives, then, yes, its a joke of a sentence and its a mockery of justice.
I don't know how anyone could light pyrotechnics in a place like that and not know it is unsafe. I do understand the legalities and why he was sentenced in that way, and I certainly hope the owners do receive a much harsher sentence. Someone has to be held criminally responsible for those deaths. I understand that it is all about legalities and should not be about retribution, but at the very least they are criminally negligent and that isn't about vengeance. I don't know the law but that's just my take on it.
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Old 05-11-2006, 10:24 AM   #7
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His lawyers actually asked that he be sentenced to only community service w/ no jail time

http://www.boston.com/news/local/rho...fetime_burden/

"As Darigan announced his sentence -- 15 years with 11 years suspended -- he cautioned that reading the sentence as a measure of the value of the lives of those who died would only dishonor their memories.

''You and the victims' families will forever be mindful of that fateful night, and it is not within the power of this or any other court to fashion a sentence reflective of the enormity of the tragedy," he said."

Briody argued that the fire was caused by a deadly series of building-code violations in the nightclub, circumstances beyond Biechele's control.

Biechele could not have known that the soundproofing foam along the walls was highly flammable or that the club's exits would not allow everyone to leave the building quickly enough to escape the fire, he said.

''Daniel Biechele's conduct alone is not the cause of the horror, the carnage, the destruction at the Station nightclub," Briody said.

Andrew Horwitz, a professor at the Ralph R. Papitto School of Law at Roger Williams University in Bristol and director of the school's criminal defense clinic, said Biechele will probably testify if the Derderians go to trial.

Horwitz said he was surprised that the plea deal did not include an agreement that Biechele would cooperate with prosecutors. ''It continues to surprise me," he said.

Such cooperation agreements are common in plea deals and the fact that this agreement was reached without Biechele agreeing to cooperate means that if Biechele does take the witness stand against the Derderians, his testimony will be more credible, Horwitz said.

Horwitz said the case against the Derderians -- that installing the soundproofing foam was the direct cause of death for each of the 100 victims -- will be difficult for prosecutors to prove."

Following is the statement made by Daniel M. Biechele before he was sentenced to four years in prison.

"For three years, I've wanted to be able to speak to the people that were affected by this tragedy, but I know that there's nothing I can say or do that will ever undo what happened that night.

Since the fire, I've wanted to tell the victims and their families how truly sorry I am for what happened that night and the part that I had in it. I never wanted anyone to be hurt in any way, and I never imagined that anyone ever would be.

I know how this tragedy has devastated me, but I can only begin to understand what the people who lost loved ones have endured. I don't know that I'll ever forgive myself for what happened that night, so I can't expect anybody else to. I can only pray that they understand that I would do anything to undo what happened that night and give them back their loved ones.

I'm so sorry for what I've done, and I don't want to cause anyone any more pain. I will never forget that night, and I will never forget the people that were hurt by it.

I'm so sorry."
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Old 05-11-2006, 10:35 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
I'm sorry for the families, but whether he gets out in 16 months or 160,000 years, those people are not coming back.

The lack of "intent," combined with his guilty plea, reflects the sentence he received. "Vengeance" should have little place in sentencing guidelines.

As for the nightclub owners, a lot is going to depend on how well the building conformed to safety laws. Rhode Island either needs to update its laws (which I'm sure they have since then), or they need to spend the time and money to enforce those laws.

Melon
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Old 05-11-2006, 09:52 PM   #9
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Good post Melon.

I feel the justice system has worked here. For now.

The problem is, history repeats itself.
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Old 05-11-2006, 10:06 PM   #10
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I think the club owners are a lot more responsible for what happened than the band's manager. I hope they throw the book at them, but I have terrible feeling they won't.
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Old 05-11-2006, 10:26 PM   #11
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A tragedy all around, that's for sure. And I haven't followed this story as closely as I could have, but I've wondered since the charges were made against the band manager why the club owners and even county officials haven't been held responsible as well? I mean, fire exits are supposed to be able to allow passage to the occupants of a building, and said building is supposed to have a maximum capacity of occupants.

Was the crowd greater than the maximum capacity the building was supposed to carry? If so, who allowed all the extra people in? If there wasn't an issue with capacity, then why the bottleneck at the exit? Shouldn't a building inspector have determined if there were adequate exits to handle the maximum occupant capacity?

As the point's already been made, no amount of punishment to the responsible parties or even just the 'scapegoat' is going to bring back those folks. And although Biechele may have acted with bad judgement, he didn't act with malice... that's got to count for something.
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Old 05-11-2006, 10:30 PM   #12
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This man pleaded guilty and sent hand written letters to each one of the families, he showed quite a bit of contrition and remorse. 4 years is probably about right.
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Old 05-11-2006, 11:41 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
I'm sorry for the families, but whether he gets out in 16 months or 160,000 years, those people are not coming back.

The lack of "intent," combined with his guilty plea, reflects the sentence he received. "Vengeance" should have little place in sentencing guidelines.

As for the nightclub owners, a lot is going to depend on how well the building conformed to safety laws. Rhode Island either needs to update its laws (which I'm sure they have since then), or they need to spend the time and money to enforce those laws.

Melon
I agree. I think it's a decent sentence.
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Old 05-11-2006, 11:48 PM   #14
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Legalities aside, I think I could buy the community service thing. With all we complain about the overcrowding of prisons and taxes and such, why not let someone who is responsible for an accident who is truly sorry do something GOOD for a change, rather than waste time and money sitting in a jail cell?
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Old 05-11-2006, 11:50 PM   #15
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Quote:
“What do you think of your son now?” Patricia Belanger shouted to Biechele’s mother. Belanger, the mother of victim Dina Ann DeMaio, 30, said, “Now it’s her turn to suffer, just like we’ve been suffering because of her son.”
This statement really bothered me. I completely understand what this mother has gone through and I feel deeply for her but why wish suffering on Biechele's mother? I guess it's natural to lash out when you've lost someone in a horrible way but to wish suffering on an innocent women due to the actions of her son is pretty harsh.

And I too agree with melon about the sentence.
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