- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2006

Club fire plea bargains anger victim relatives

WARWICK, R.I. — Relatives of the 100 persons killed in a nightclub fire vented their grief and fury and berated the judge yesterday, but were unable to derail a plea bargain in which one of the club’s owners received four years behind bars and the other got no prison time.

Michael Derderian, who received the prison sentence, and his brother, Jeffrey, pleaded no contest to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the 2003 fire, which was sparked by a band’s pyrotechnics and quickly engulfed the Station nightclub.

Judge Francis Darigan refused to reconsider the plea bargains, which he said would avoid a long, heart-wrenching trial.

Largest archdiocese to settle abuse cases

LOS ANGELES — The nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese could sign a $60 million settlement with dozens of purported victims of clergy abuse within days, several attorneys told the Associated Press.

The settlement being drafted by attorneys for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles would give 45 claimants a total of $60 million, said Venus Soltan, a plaintiffs’ attorney.

The settlement would encompass claims not covered by the church’s insurance policies, she said.

If distributed equally, each purported victim would get $1.3 million, although how the money would be divided remained unclear.

Principal killed; teen student held

CAZENOVIA, Wis. — A teenager brought two guns to his rural school and fatally shot the principal yesterday after a struggle with adults and other students, authorities said.

The 15-year-old was taken into custody and charged with first-degree intentional homicide, the district attorney said. No one else was hurt.

It was not clear why the gunman opened fire or if Weston High School Principal John Klang was the intended target, Sheriff Randy Stammen said.

Report says hurricane research lacks funding

MIAMI — Hurricanes costs taxpayers billions of dollars, but the government has not invested enough money in understanding them, according to a federal report released yesterday that calls for more coordinated research.

The National Science Board’s draft report recommends a streamlined, multiagency effort to improve hurricane science and engineering research, along with about $300 million a year in additional funds.

“We urgently need a determined effort to maximize our understanding of hurricanes and ensure the effective application of science and engineering outcomes for the protection of life and property,” the report states.

Hurricane-related losses in the U.S. totaled $168 billion in the past two hurricane seasons, and 1,450 storm-related deaths were reported. But storm analysis research has never exceeded $5.1 million.

Hostage taker left suicide note

BAILEY, Colo. — A gunman sent a long suicide letter to a brother in Colorado before he took six girls hostage in a high school classroom, killed one of them, and took his own life, investigators said yesterday.

The contents of the letter were not released. Investigators were analyzing the note’s contents and more details could be made public later, Sheriff Fred Wegener said.

Authorities say Duane Morrison fatally shot 16-year-old Emily Keyes on Wednesday before killing himself as SWAT team members stormed a Platte Canyon High School classroom.

Voters consider new levee boards

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana voters will decide today whether to overhaul the multitude of boards that oversee the New Orleans area’s levees after the agencies were accused of cronyism, inefficiency and ineptitude in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

A proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot would consolidate the 10 boards into two — one for each bank of the Mississippi River — and require that their members have broad expertise in engineering, geology and hydrology.

The boards are responsible for levee upkeep and inspections, but critics say they have become distracted by other projects.

From staff reports and wire dispatches.

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