Great White - Station Fire Update: Judge Grants Lawyer Change For Defendant

By Newsferatu, Writer
Saturday, May 27, 2006 @ 9:41 AM

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From The Associated Press:

A judge allowed one of the owners of The Station nightclub to shuffle his defense team on Friday and said he expected the man to stand trial in the fall for a fire that killed 100 people.

Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan Jr. approved Jeff Pine's request to withdraw as attorney for Jeffrey Derderian and agreed to let Boston-based lawyer Anthony Cardinale enter the case. Pine, a former Rhode Island attorney general, said he was concerned the case would leave him unable to devote enough attention to his other clients and asked to withdraw this week. He had represented Derderian in the three years since the fire.

"This isn't something that happened overnight," Cardinale told reporters outside court Friday. "We've been working on this over the past month." Derderian and his brother, Michael, each face 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the Feb. 20, 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick. The fire, which began when a Great White's pyrotechnics ignited flammable soundproofing foam on the club's walls, killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others.

The Derderians are accused of installing the flammable foam that fueled the fire and of negligence in their management of the club. They have pleaded not guilty.

Michael Derderian's trial is scheduled to start July 31, and Darigan said Friday he expected the trial to last between eight and 10 weeks. He said Jeffrey Derderian's trial would begin after that, probably in October or early November.

Prosecutors initially objected to the change in lawyers, saying it could delay bringing the case to trial. But they dropped their objection when Cardinale said he would be ready for trial in the fall.

Cardinale is a prominent Boston defense attorney who has represented assorted mob figures in Massachusetts, including former New England mob boss Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme, a former crime partner of fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger.

Cardinale told reporters that he was confident he would up to speed "and present the best defense possible when the time comes." Jeffrey Derderian's other lawyers still include Kathleen Hagerty and Thomas Dickinson.

Daniel Biechele, the former tour manager for Great White, pleaded guilty earlier this year to igniting the pyrotechnics and was sentenced to serve four years in prison.

Also Friday, Darigan agreed to release certain of the Derderians' financial records, which had been kept under seal for the last year. Prosecutors requested the records in hopes of showing that the brothers could have afforded to pay for renovations at the club and make it safer. Defense lawyers argued that the financial records were irrelevant to the case, but Darigan disagreed and said the records could be released to the lawyers for their review.

The judge also granted a defense request to issue subpoenas to the state of Rhode Island, the state fire marshal and the town of West Warwick for records on education or training that was received by certain town officials, including its fire marshal.

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