Biechele To Plead Guilty

Former Great White tour manager Dan Biechele agreed to plead guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter January 31st for his role in The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., Sentencing was expected within a week.

Biechele agreed to the sentencing during a 10-minute session in Superior Court in Providence. In exchange for the plea, he will serve no more than 10 years in prison, according to Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan. Each manslaughter count originally carried a maximum charge of 30 years.

“It is important to understand that in engaging in a plea agreement, both the state and the defendant have given up substantial rights in foregoing the trial of this case,” Darigan said, according to The Providence Journal.

“This agreement on sentencing parameters has been reached in an effort to successfully conclude this aspect of this most sorrowful and tragic case.”

Biechele lit pyrotechnics on stage at The Station February 20, 2003, as an intro to Great White’s performance. The pyro ignited flammable material on the back of the stage, leading to the death of 100 people and the injury of 200. Biechele was scheduled to go on trial May 1st.

“He deeply regrets his actions that evening and the harm they caused,” Biechele attorney Thomas Briody told the Journal.

The tour manager claimed he received permission to launch the pyro from Station owners Michael and Jeffrey Derderian. The brothers refute the claim.

Darigan did not say whether Biechele will cooperate with prosecutors in the case against the Derderians.

As for the brothers, Biechele was originally charged with 200 counts of manslaughter, two for each death.

“My daughter’s life is worth more than a plea bargain,” a mother of one of the victims said. “For the 100 victims, and for all the ones that are burnt and scarred and everything else, they deserve more than this – not a plea bargain.”

The plea could change the landscape of the Derderians’ trial, according to former prosecutor David Frank.

“[Biechele’s] lawyer isn’t there to sort of present his side of the story or present his spin,” Frank said. “So it really allows the Derderians to put whatever blame or whatever responsibility they think is appropriate on this manager.”

Court TV had lobbied to broadcast Biechele’s trial. A documentary called “Decoding Disaster” on the Discovery Times channel, which documents the West Warwick disaster as well as the Chicago E2 nightclub tragedy, debuts February 26th.