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The Station Night Club Fire Trial – West Warwick, Rhode Island

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                Perhaps that title is a misnomer; there was no trial. As I am writing this, I am watching the developments in the case on Court TV – the Victim Impact Statements, and I must tell you that I was moved to tears when one mother said that she lost all faith in our system of justice, and essentially resigned her citizenship in the United States because the judge accepted the plea bargain in the case. The defendants pled to the full indictment – 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. The effect of the “Nolo Contendere”[1] plea is identical to a conviction after trial; however, most of the victim’s family members expressed outrage that the judge accepted the plea. One hundred additional counts of manslaughter with criminal intent were dismissed with prejudice[2] by the judge, because that level of offense clearly requires the intent to cause death, or willful criminal negligence, which could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in this case. I was particularly furious when the judge interrupted one of the family members and chastised him for questioning the decision of the court. Although subsequent victim’s statements expressed similar sentiments, the judge shut his face and listened.  Last time I checked, the US Constitution gave us the right to express our opinions and our feelings, but this judge seems to believe otherwise.

 

                This case is truly tragic. There was clearly no intent on the part of the club owners to create a condition where occupants of the club would lose their lives… but the key word here is “intent”. Although criminal intent is certainly a major consideration – the club owners were only attempting to be responsible individuals, and responsive to the community by installing soundproofing material in their night club. There was no evidence presented that the material chosen for the installation was chosen over other, more suitable materials because of cost considerations – which WOULD be evidence of indifference to safety, at least. We can assume that the owners did NOT willingly create the conditions that led to the fire, but there are other elements to be considered here that SHOULD have led to prosecution under the more severe charged offenses – but first, let us deal with the issue of “common sense”. The law has an axiom that “ignorance of the law is no defense”. Perhaps we can argue that the owners could not have foreseen the consequences of the soundproofing catching fire, but what kind of idiots permit the lighting of fireworks in their (indoor) establishment? This is a case for AssholesAmongUs.com

 

The Station Night Club - Photo by Anthony Baldino III

 

The plea, “Nolo Contendere” (No contest) does not require any admission of guilt, but merely an acknowledgement that there is enough evidence for the prosecution to obtain a conviction. The plea does not require any statements of remorse (as if that would bring back the dead), although Jeffery’s pre-sentence statement of remorse was very powerful.

Michael and Jeffrey Derderian The fire completely engulfed the club
in 3 minutes.
 

Boo-hoo, you dumb assholes!

 

     Members of the Los Angeles rock group "Great White" are shown in this 1993 Associated Press file photo. Standing is Jack Russell. Seated from left are Audie Desbrow, Mark Kendall and Michael Lardie.

 

     Great White was started in 1981 in Los Angeles, California, and recorded for EMI Records in the early 1980s. The lack of success of these two records prompted EMI to drop the group, and it signed to the smaller Los Angeles label Enigma Records. The band’s 1986 record, “Shot in the Dark,” hit the Top 100 on the album charts, and the group was picked up by Enigma’s parent Capitol. Its 1987 recording “Once Bitten” hit the Top 30, laying the groundwork for 1989’s “Twice Shy,” which featured the Hunter-written single and hit the Top 10, selling more than 2 million copies.

     The band’s indoor pyrotechnic display apparently ignited the fire in The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, near Providence, and the blaze quickly spread through the building, killing 100 people. The band’s tour manager, Dan Biechele, pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in May and was sentenced to four years for involuntary manslaughter for igniting the pyrotechnics.

 

These are the four Einsteins that equate fireworks
inside an occupied building with “entertainment”.

 

 

Has anybody learned the lesson yet?

 

                Despite the tragic loss of life in this incident, why do the fire departments of ANY city or town permit the lighting-off of fireworks (or “squib pots” as they known in the industry) in occupied buildings? Is the music so piss-poor at these performances that the audience’s adrenaline must be set to pumping by fireworks? No doubt as I write this (and you are reading), there are dozens – perhaps hundreds of other such “concerts” being played across the country that are similarly dangerous and waiting to become similar tragedies. I say that fireworks inside of occupied buildings should be summarily BANNED by a FEDERAL LAW, the mere violation of which would be cause to seize the property from the owners, and mandatory prison terms for all who are involved. Only such drastic measures, it seems, would deter the complete IDIOCY of what happened in this case from happening again. Assholes like the Derdarian brothers should not be allowed to own night clubs where patron’s lives are risked in order to draw young, thrill-seeking crowds to attend.

 

                Make no mistake – Assholes are among us – and there is NO EXCUSE, and there should be no mitigating[3] circumstances that lessen the severity of the STUPIDITY it takes to even consider setting off fireworks inside an occupied building… and if exit doors are blocked – in ANY club, movie theatre, or bar – it is definitely a violation of the fire code in ANY jurisdiction – and the violation should be punished by termination of the operating license, and seizure of the property for the payment of fines equal to the value of the property. The funds so collected could be put into an interest-bearing escrow account to compensate past and future victims of such abject[4] stupidity.

 

OTHER RELATED FACTS

 

The people who lost loved ones in the 2003 Station Night Club shared their grief in front of a packed courtroom and a judge who made it clear from the beginning that their victim impact statements would have no impact on the sentences given to the night club owners.[5] The hearing began with a reading of the names of all 100 people killed in the fire, as their pictures were displayed on a screen at the front of the dimly-lit room.

 

Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan, Jr., laid out the ground rules for the victims’ impact statements. He said the focus must be kept on the victims and the impact of their loss. No one would be allowed to share their personal dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system or the sentence given to the Derderians -- a sentence that would not be changed by their words. “I also know that you’ve been told by some that perhaps after listening to presenters here today the court might be inclined to change its mind and someone alter the plea and or the disposition that I have indicated. I must tell you that that is not the case,” Darigan said. “What I have learned from all of this is life really is too short and to never take anything for granted. Every moment you have with the people you love and care about it precious. I just wish I never had to learn this life lesson,” Ballard said.

 

“So, with that the only thing I really have to say is that the only thing I’ve learned from these court proceedings is that Lady Justice in Rhode Island is blind ... but she’s also deaf,” McLaughlin said.

 

The owner of American Foam Corp. in Johnston says The Station nightclub in June 2000 purchased $575 worth of common egg-crate packing foam for soundproofing, but it was not fire retardant. The fire retardant foam would have cost twice as much, according to Aram DerManouelian, who said the club wanted “the lowest grade, the cheapest stuff”. The flammable, charcoal-colored foam was 2 1/2 inches thick. Each sheet was 37 by 84 inches in diameter. It was made of polyurethane and is generally used for packing.

 

“They had a choice, and they bought general purpose egg-crate foam,” said DerManouelian. “It kept the noise down, but whoever figured they’d put flame on it? Jesus. For a $575 invoice, here we are”.…. “It’s unfortunate,” DerManouelian said. “They did not buy fire retardant foam. Yeah, they could have. We sell fire-retardant foam. They bought the wrong kind. In hindsight, they probably didn’t think they were going to have a fire”.

    The Station nightclub fire on the evening of Thursday, February 20, 2003, was the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history, killing 100 people and injuring more than 200. Ninety-six perished on the night of the fire, and four died later from their injuries at local hospitals. The Station, which regularly hosted hair metal and 80s rock bands, was a nightclub in West Warwick in Kent County in the state of Rhode Island. 412 people were in the building on the night of the fire.


RESOURCES AND LINKS FOR THIS ARTICLE

 

http://www.cnn.com/interactive/us/0302/fire.reax.gallery/frameset.exclude.html

http://www.turnto10.com/clubfire/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Northeast/02/21/deadly.nightclub.fire/ 

http://www.accessmylibrary.com/comsite5/bin/pdinventory.pl?pdlanding=1&referid=2930&purchase_type=ITM&item_id=0286-7532218

 

 


FOOTNOTES


[1] Nolo Contendere (Latin, legal term) literally: “I will not contest it”, or “no contest”.

[2] With prejudice (legal term): A dismissal “with prejudice” means that the State cannot retry the case.

[3] Mitigating – justifying explanatory.

[4] Abject - allowing no hope of improvement or relief, utterly despicable or contemptible.

[5] Typically, victim impact statements cannot affect sentencing guidelines for the offense of conviction.

 

 


 

 


 


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Last modified: 08/27/14

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