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Great White - Judge Sentences Biechele To 4 Years In Prison

By Newsferatu, Writer
Wednesday, May 10, 2006 @ 1:08 PM


"Mr. Beichele, the greatest se

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Providence, R.I. Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan Jr. has sentenced Great White Manager Daniel Biechele to 15 years, with 4 years in prison, 11 years suspended, 3 years probation, for lighting the pyrotechnics display that sparked The Station nightclub fire, which killed 100 people.

A tearful Biechele apologized to the families who lost loved ones before the sentence was handed down.

"I will never forgive myself for what happened that night," Biechele said.

A prosecutor asked a judge to sentence the former Great White tour manager to 10 years in prison Wednesday

"The devastation wrought by the conduct of the defendant is unparalleled in our state's history," prosecutor Randall White said, occasionally choking up as he described what he called the incalculable impact on those who survived and relatives of those who died.

"The suffering is endless, and the extent and depth of the pain is bottomless," White added.

The courtroom was dotted with relatives of those who died and survived, many of them wearing buttons with photos of their loved ones. More than a dozen counselors were on hand to assist family members, and Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan Jr. opened the hearing by asking them to maintain decorum.

The sentencing hearing follows two days of emotional testimony from dozens of relatives of those who died.

Biechele, 29, was the tour manager for the heavy metal band 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, about 13 miles south of Providence.

Flames and toxic smoke quickly engulfed the club, and many of those who died were either overcome by the fumes or were unable to make their way through a logjam of fellow concertgoers who converged on the front door.

Biechele's lawyers have asked the judge to show mercy and sentence Biechele to community service. They say he is the only person to take responsibility for the fire and is truly remorseful, having written letters of apology to the families of the victims that will be given to them after his sentencing.

Biechele will be allowed to make a statement if he chooses before he is sentenced. It would be the first time he has spoken publicly about the fire.

Prosecutors want the maximum sentence allowed under the deal they struck with Biechele in February when he pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter -- 10 years to serve in prison and 5 years suspended.

Darigan will take into account the impact made on the families of the victims, including people like Claire Bruyere, whose daughter, Bonnie Lynn Hamelin, 27, of Warwick, was among those killed. Bruyere called Hamelin her best friend.

"Now all I have to look forward to is death, so we can be together again," Bruyere said Tuesday.

Biechele broke down for the first time in court Tuesday, near the end of two days of testimony, as the father of the youngest fire victim spoke of forgiveness.

"Many times in the past days, we have thought of Mr. Biechele's mother and the impact this must have on her," said David Kane, who said his 18-year-old son, Nicholas O'Neill, would want his family to accept Biechele's apology. "That's the kind of boy Nicky is."

The owners of The Station nightclub, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, are accused of installing the flammable foam that fed the flames.

They have pleaded not guilty to 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter -- two counts for each person killed, under separate legal theories. Michael Derderian is tentatively scheduled to go to trial on July 31; no trial date has been set for his brother.


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