A judge in Rhode Island sentenced former Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele to four years in prison on Wednesday (May 10) for his role in a February 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people.
Biechele — who on February 7 pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter as part of a plea deal (see "Former Great White Manager Expected To Plead Guilty To Involuntary Manslaughter") — tearfully apologized to the victims of the fire, then stood in silence as Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan Jr. sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Darigan suspended 11 years of the sentence, explaining that he believed Biechele had already suffered for his act.
"The greatest sentence that can be imposed upon you has been imposed upon you by yourself," Darigan told Biechele, according to The Associated Press.
Prosecutors had urged the judge to sentence Biechele to 10 years in prison after he admitted to lighting a pyrotechnic display during Great White's first song at the Station club. The pyrotechnics ignited flammable soundproof lining in the ceiling and walls of the venue, creating a roaring inferno that killed 100 as panicked concertgoers filled the exits (see "Great White Fire Claims 100th Life").
"The devastation wrought by the conduct of the defendant is unparalleled in our state's history," prosecutor Randall White said, according to the AP. "The suffering is endless, and the extent and depth of the pain is bottomless."
But Biechele's attorney Thomas Briody argued his client deserved leniency. "I ask you to consider this: Dan Biechele is the only man in this tragedy to stand up and say, 'I did something wrong,' " Briody said, according to the AP. "He's the only man to say, 'I apologize.' "
It was a pointed reference to the owners of the Station club, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who are accused of installing the soundproofing and have each pleaded not guilty to 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter — two counts for each individual killed as a result of the blaze (see "Great White Manager, Club Owners Hit With Criminal Charges").
Michael Derderian's trial has been set for July 31; his brother is still without a trial date.