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Guilty times 100 for club fire deaths


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Stix

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Great White tour manager to serve 10 years for manslaughter

Tuesday, February 7, 2006; Posted: 5:43 p.m. EST (22:43 GMT)

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) -- The former tour manager for the heavy metal rock group Great White pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter Tuesday for setting off the pyrotechnics that caused one of the deadliest nightclub fires in U.S. history.

Under a plea bargain, Daniel Biechele, 29, will serve no more than 10 years in prison.

The February 20, 2003, blaze killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others. It was the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history.

Biechele set off a flashy pyrotechnics display during a concert at the West Warwick club called the Station.

The sparks ignited flammable soundproofing foam inside the club, fueling a fast-moving fire that quickly enveloped the one-story wooden building and trapped concertgoers.

Biechele pleaded guilty to 100 counts that accused him of lighting the pyrotechnics without the required permit, resulting in the deaths.

An additional 100 counts will be dismissed, sparing Biechele what could have been many more years behind bars. Sentencing was scheduled for May 8.

Some relatives of those killed in the fire have criticized the plea agreement, saying they wanted Biechele to stand trial. Dozens attended Tuesday's hearing, and many met with Attorney General Patrick Lynch afterward.

"With the defendant's guilty plea, we will avoid a lengthy trial and ensuing appeals that could stretch on for years," Lynch said.

During the hearing, several women dabbed their eyes with tissues, and one woman held up a small photograph of her daughter, who was killed in the blaze.

The brothers who owned the nightclub, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, were also indicted in 2003 on charges of involuntary manslaughter. They were accused of installing the foam and have pleaded not guilty.

Biechele's lawyer has maintained that he had permission to use the pyrotechnics, and on Tuesday, prosecutors said Biechele received permission from Michael Derderian to use them. The Derderians have insisted in the past that they never gave him permission.

The attorney general said Biechele could testify against the Derderians if they go to trial.

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