Lenient Sentence to Club Owners Sparks Outrage
Thu, 21 Sep 2006 08:44:18
Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan is not a popular guy. Before he could even officially announce his decision to agree to a plea deal with the owners of the nightclub where 100 people died in a fire at a Great White concert, howls of protest at the light sentences have assailed him from every direction.
The first to express his disapproval was no less than the Attorney General of Rhode Island, Patrick Lynch, who wrote a three-page letter to families of victims explaining the plea deal and his taking care to distance himself from it. "I want each of you to understand that as attorney general, I have not agreed to this disposition, and I will continue to strongly voice my objection," the letter read in part.
That letter was leaked to the press on Wednesday (September 20), before Judge Darigan could announce his decision. It sparked immediate outrage when it revealed that of the two brothers who owned the club, only one, Michael Derderian, will face any jail time. Michael will serve four years; his brother, Jeffrey, was given probation, a suspended sentence, and 500 hours of community service.
"As far as I'm concerned, these guys are getting away with murder," the father of one of the victims told the New York Times. "I really thought that these two guys would be facing some serious jail time. I mean, they had 440 people inside that club, and the capacity was 300. My wife and I are devastated."
And today, the Boston Globe added its voice to the chorus of disapproval, noting in an angry editorial that it was the Derderian brothers who "bought and installed the combustible foam that lined the club's walls with the equivalent of 13 gallons of gasoline."
It was that combustible material -- installed as soundproofing -- that was ignited by Great White's pyrotechnics show, leading to a ferocious blaze that killed 100 people and injured about 200 more in a matter of minutes.
Thursday, as Judge Darigan officially announced the plea deal, he also condemned Attorney General Lynch's letter to the victims, calling it "despicable" and "devoid of any consideration for the victims of this tragedy."
Many of those victims and their families, however, are saying the same thing about Judge Darigan's decision, which prevented two separate cases against the Derderian brothers from going to trial. And they're not letting Lynch off the hook either, as many of them view his letter -- and its leak to the press -- as a blatant attempt by the Attorney General to cover his own tracks, after initially promising harsher sentences for the club owners.
"If I were to punch Patrick Lynch, would I get more time than the Derderians?" asked Michelle Hoell, who lost her younger sister Tammy Mattera-Housa in the blaze. "After three years, we thought this was going to be our justice, and now it isn't."
--The ARTISTdirect Staff