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Great White's Band Manager Faces Up To 10 Years

By Newsferatu, Writer
Monday, May 8, 2006 @ 9:16 AM


Sentence could be read today

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From The Boston Globe:

A woman whose daughter was severely burned in The Station nightclub fire then died months later described the experience as "a journey of hell" as a three-day sentencing hearing began for the former band manager whose pyrotechnics display sparked the blaze.

Ann Gruttadauria said her 33-year-old daughter, Pamela, had 35 operations before infection began to take over two and a half months after the Feb. 20, 2003, blaze. Her family ultimately decided to take her off life support.

"How can you decide whether to keep your daughter alive or not? We knew she would not have a good life. She was totally destroyed," said Gruttadauria, one of dozens of relatives of the 100 people killed who were slated to speak at the sentencing of Daniel Biechele.

Biechele, 29, pleaded guilty in February to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter and under the plea deal could be sentenced to serve no more than 10 years in prison.

The sentence will be imposed at the end of the hearing that opened Monday morning with dozens of victims' relatives allotted five minutes each to describe how the fire has affected their lives. About 30 victims' relatives plan to read impact statements to Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan Jr. on Monday and Tuesday. A representative from the attorney general's office will read prepared remarks from other relatives, and Biechele will be able to address the judge before he is sentenced Wednesday afternoon.

Darigan opened Monday's hearing by cautioning those who planned to offer victim impact statements against making remarks about Biechele, and told them not to address Biechele directly. He said family members would not be allowed to display pictures of their family members during the hearing, as some did when Biechele pleaded guilty.

On the night of the fire, as the heavy metal band Great White took the stage and launched into its first song, Biechele ignited four small pyrotechnic devices that each sprayed 15-foot-long streams of sparks. The sparks quickly ignited flammable foam used as soundproofing around the stage.

Besides the 100 people who perished, more than 200 others were injured.

Criminal charges are still pending against brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who owned the nightclub and are accused of installing the foam. They have pleaded not guilty. Michael Derderian's trial is scheduled to begin July 31. A trial date hasn't been set for his brother.

The attorney general's office is seeking the maximum prison term possible under the plea deal, saying Biechele acted callously and recklessly by igniting the pyrotechnics inside the crowded club. Biechele's lawyers are asking for community service rather than jail time, saying he never intended to harm anyone and could not have known about the foam on the club's walls.

Biechele, who lives in Florida, married his high school sweetheart within the last month and works at a flooring company while taking accounting classes at night, his lawyers said in a recent court filing. He has expressed remorse by writing personalized letters of apology to the victims' families.

Though Biechele used the pyrotechnics in previous Great White concerts, he did not have the required permit to ignite them in Rhode Island. Biechele says he had permission from Michael Derderian to use the pyrotechnics; the Derderians have said no such permission was ever given. Ten months after the fire, a state grand jury indicted Biechele and the Derderians on 200 counts each of involuntary manslaughter -- two counts for each person who died under separate legal theories.

Though many victims' relatives were angered by the plea deal and hoped to see Biechele stand trial, others hold him less responsible than the club owners or fire inspectors who did not detect the flammable foam. Only Biechele and the Derderians were charged.


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