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Judge: Ex-Band Manager to Plead Guilty

January 31, 2006

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ The former manager of the heavy metal rock group Great White has agreed to plead guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from the deadly 2003 nightclub fire, a judge said Tuesday.

Daniel Biechele will enter the plea next week and serve no more than 10 years in state prison under the deal with prosecutors, Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan said.

Biechele was charged with 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter for setting the blaze that began when he ignited pyrotechnics during a Great White performance at The Station nightclub in West Warwick. Sparks from the pyrotechnics ignited highly flammable foam lining the club’s walls and ceiling, creating a fast-moving blaze that also injured more than 200 people in the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in the country’s history.

Brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who owned the club, were also charged with 200 counts each of involuntary manslaughter. They are accused of installing the flammable soundproofing foam in violation of the state fire code. They have pleaded not guilty.

Biechele has said through his lawyer that he had permission to light the pyrotechnics during the Feb. 20, 2003, concert, but the Derderians have disputed that claim.

The three defendants were charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for each of the 100 people killed. The charges are for separate legal theories of manslaughter.

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