- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2006

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The former manager of the heavy metal rock group Great White has agreed to plead guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from a deadly 2003 nightclub fire, a judge said yesterday.

Daniel Biechele will enter the plea next week and serve no more than 10 years in prison under the deal with prosecutors, Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan said.

Mr. Biechele had been charged with 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter for starting the blaze when he ignited pyrotechnics during a Great White performance at the Station nightclub in West Warwick. He had pleaded not guilty.

Sparks from the pyrotechnics ignited foam lining the club’s walls and ceiling, creating a fast-moving blaze that killed 100 persons and injured more than 200 in the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in the country’s history.

Some victims’ relatives reacted angrily to news of the plea, saying they hoped to see Mr. Biechele go to trial.

“For the 100 victims, and for all the ones that are burnt and scarred and everything else, they deserve much more than this — not a plea bargain. This is absolutely wrong,” said Diane Mattera, whose 29-year-old daughter, Tammy, was killed in the fire.

Brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who owned the club, also were charged with 200 counts each of involuntary manslaughter. They are accused of installing the flammable soundproofing foam in violation of the state fire code. They have pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Biechele has said through his attorney that he had permission to light the pyrotechnics during the Feb. 20, 2003, concert, but the Derderians have disputed that.

The three defendants were charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for each of the 100 persons killed. One count per death charged criminal negligence; the other accused the defendants of committing underlying offenses that led to the deaths.

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