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Civil Trial in Dupont Plaza Fire Set For June 1989

December 1, 1987

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ The civil trial in the New Year’s Eve Dupont Plaza Hotel blaze that killed 97 people and injured more than 140 has been set for June 1, 1989, it was reported Tuesday.

An order issued Monday by San Juan District Court Judge Raymond L. Acosta sets the date for the trial and establishes the guidelines for carrying it out, the newspaper El Nuevo Dia reported.

According to the order, 104 suits totaling more than $895 million have been filed in the name of 647 plaintiffs. The suits name 112 defendants, although the total could surpass 187, the order says.

The newspaper says many of the defendants are expected to settle out of court, and Acosta said he is considering designating an official to handle those who want to reach an agreement with the plaintiffs.

A California investor who owned 25 percent of the stock in a company that owned the hotel reached an out of court settlement for $8.5 million in October.

Three men, all members of the Teamsters Union, pleaded guilty in April to federal charges of arson in connection with the blaze, and one of them also pleaded guilty to murder. They are serving sentences ranging from 75 to 99 years in prisons on the U.S. mainland.

Two of the men also pleaded guilty to reduced charges of second degree murder, arson and conspiracy in Commonwealth court. Hector Escudero Aponte, who confessed to setting the fire, is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 3 on 96 counts of first degree murder, and one count each of arson and conspiracy.

The fire broke out in the ground-floor ballroom of the beach-front hotel moments after the Teamsters Union held a meeting where they voted to strike. The blaze swept through the bottom floors of the hotel, engulfing the casino.

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