Great White - Station Fire Update: Judge OKs Work Release For Biechele

By Newsferatu, Writer
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 @ 12:55 AM

Awaiting Department of Correct

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From TurnTo10

Great white's former tour manager who was sentenced to prison for igniting The Station nightclub fire should be allowed to work as a bookkeeper for a nonprofit agency while serving time, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Daniel Biechele, sentenced earlier this month to serve four years in prison at the state prison in Cranston, has been offered a position in the finance department of The Arc of Northern Rhode Island. The agency provides services to children and adults with disabilities.

"I really cannot think of a better position for a person with Mr. Biechele's background than one such as this one," Thomas Briody, Biechele's attorney, said.

Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan Jr. said at a hearing on the work-release request that Biechele, who had no prior criminal record, was eligible to participate. The job still requires approval from the state Department of Corrections, which generally follows a judge's recommendation.

Biechele, who had been taking nighttime accounting classes in Florida, would be responsible for managing certain accounts, billing and keeping track of expenditures for The Arc, said Robert Carl Jr., the agency's chief executive.

Biechele would work Monday through Friday, from 8 AM to 4 PM, under "constant supervision" from an accounting manager, Carl said. He would likely commute by public bus to the agency's office in Woonsocket, about 25 miles away from the prison.

Dave Kane, father of 18-year-old fire victim Nicholas O'Neill, said he supported Biechele's plans to work at the nonprofit.

"I don't see any purpose in beating him senseless," Kane said.

But Michelle Hoell, whose 29-year-old sister, Tammy Mattera-Housa, died in the fire, said she thinks Biechele should not be eligible to participate in a work-release program unless he works in a burn unit.

"He has to see kind of what he did, and if he doesn't do that, than I don't think work release is going to do anything," Hoell said.

Carl, who headed the Department of Administration under former Gov. Lincoln Almond, said Tuesday he believed in giving people an opportunity to redeem themselves.

"Everything I know about him from other people is that he has been a good citizen, that there was no malicious intent and that he can have a successful future," Carl said.

Biechele did not appear in court Tuesday.

During the hearing, the judge said that Biechele was not being given any special consideration and was subject to the same regulations as other prisoners.

"He is not leapfrogging, as someone has suggested, over a list of inmates who have been working towards this designation. It doesn't work that way," Darigan said.

More than 100 inmates currently participate in work release, and they are responsible for riding the bus to their job or getting a ride from their employer, said acting Corrections Department spokesman Kenneth Findlay. Findlay said the department typically follows a judge's order in approving work release unless the prisoner has behavioral problems or there are other concerns.

"He has an enormous amount to offer, particularly to disadvantaged people," Biechele's lawyer, Peter DiBiase, said after the hearing. Biechele is currently being held in a minimum-security facility at the Adult Correctional Institutions. He pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter for igniting the pyrotechnics display that investigators said sparked the Feb. 20, 2003, fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick.

The sparks ignited foam that had been placed around the stage as soundproofing. The fire spread throughout the club within minutes, killing 100 people and injuring about 200 more.

Club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian are both awaiting trial on 200 counts each of involuntary manslaughter. They have pleaded not guilty.

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