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R.I. Club Fire Case to End in Plea Bargain for Owners

The owners of the Station nightclub in Rhode Island, which burned to the ground in 2003 and killed 100 people, are expected to plead no contest to involuntary manslaughter charges next week, but community members are already outraged about their sentences. Michael Derderian will serve four years in prison, and his brother, Jeffrey, will serve no hard time at all, getting three years probation and 500 hours of community service, the Providence Journal reported yesterday.

While the plea bargains weren’t expected to be announced until next week, the attorney general handling the case leaked the information to the Journal via a letter to the victims’ families in which he sharply criticized the sentences. “Despite their desire to admit to the charges against them, I was unwilling to recommend or agree to the sentences that I have been advised the court will impose,” said Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch. “Most significantly, I strongly disagree with the court’s intention to sentence Jeffrey Derderian to less than jail.” Attorneys for the Derderians deny the claim, though, alleging that Lynch authorized the plea deal, a notion many of the victims’ families agreed with in interviews with the Journal.

Most disturbing for many of the families is the disclosure that Jeffrey Derderian will serve no time behind bars. “I think it’s a disgrace. I think it’s a travesty,” said Tony Durante, whose wife died in the fire, which was exacerbated by highly flammable soundproofing installed by the Derderian brothers in the club’s ceiling. “I told my two sons last night. The only thing they had to hang on to, was I told them these two people would go to jail for what they did, and they’re not.”

Talk: Was the sentence for the Derderian brothers too light? COMMENT

Chuck Klosterman talks about visiting the Station site

On the Web:
The Station Family Fund
Station Fire coverage via the Providence Journal