- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2006

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The former manager of the heavy-metal band Great White was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison — well short of the maximum — for his role in a pyrotechnics fire that killed 100 concertgoers.

Daniel Biechele gazed downward and choked back tears as he apologized for the Feb. 20, 2003, blaze at the Station nightclub in West Warwick.

“I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive myself for what happened that night, so I can’t expect anyone else to,” he said, his lip quivering. “I never wanted anyone to be hurt in any way. I never imagined that anyone ever would be.”

Biechele, 29, could have gotten as many as 10 years behind bars under a deal he struck with prosecutors in February, when he pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

“The greatest sentence that can be imposed upon you has been imposed upon you by yourself,” Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan Jr. told Biechele, drawing sobs and groans from some of those in the courtroom.

Biechele is the first person to be sentenced for the fire. The owners of the club are awaiting trial on manslaughter charges.

Testimony from victims’ relatives Monday and Tuesday left lawyers, court officials and at one point the defendant himself in tears. Some described a grief so powerful that they could not get out of bed in the morning and said they looked forward to nothing except being reunited with their loved ones in death.

Biechele lit a pyrotechnics display that ignited highly flammable foam that lined the walls and ceiling of the nightclub. The foam was used as soundproofing and was placed there by the owners after neighbors complained about noise.

Many of the people killed were quickly overcome by fumes emitted by the foam or became trapped in a crush at the front door.

Biechele’s attorneys had asked the judge to show mercy and sentence Biechele to community service. They said he is the only person to accept responsibility and is truly remorseful, having written letters of apology to the families that will be given to them later.

Prosecutors had asked for the maximum.

“The devastation wrought by the conduct of the defendant is unparalleled in our state’s history,” prosecutor Randall White said, occasionally choking up in court. “The suffering is endless, and the extent and depth of the pain is bottomless.”

The owners of the Station, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, are accused of installing the flammable foam and are charged with 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter — two counts for each person killed, under separate legal theories.

Michael Derderian is scheduled to go to trial on July 31; no trial date has been set for his brother.

Biechele has said Michael Derderian gave him permission to use the pyrotechnics at the Station; the Derderians have said he did not have permission.

Biechele and the Derderians are also among dozens of defendants being sued by survivors of the fire and victims’ relatives.

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