GREAT WHITE Nightclub Fire Defendants Want Charges Tossed

The Associated Press has issued the following report:

The owners of a nightclub where 100 people died in a fast-moving fire in 2003 asked a judge Friday to throw out manslaughter charges against them. A motion seeking partial dismissal of counts against Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, owners of The Station nightclub in West Warwick, says the deaths were accidental and did not constitute manslaughter.

The motion also says the entire indictment should be thrown out because grand jurors who returned the charges repeatedly missed testimony and were absent for portions of the proceedings.

The grand jury indicted the Derderian brothers and Dan Biechele, former tour manager for the rock band GREAT WHITE, on 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from the February 2003 fire.

The blaze, triggered by a pyrotechnics display during a GREAT WHITE performance, ignited foam that the nightclub had used as soundproofing and quickly spread. One hundred people died, many of them trapped in the building, and about 200 others were injured.

Half of the 200 involuntary manslaughter counts in the indictment allege criminal negligence; the other half deal with misdemeanor manslaughter. The papers filed Friday specifically seek dismissal of the 100 counts of misdemeanor manslaughter.

Attorney General Patrick Lynch said Friday he would challenge the request.

The defense motion says the Derderians were not given fair notice, despite inspections by professional fire and building officials, that the flammable foam they installed violated state fire codes.

The brothers did not put up the foam in a criminally negligent manner and could not have known they were violating the law, the motion argues.

Biechele also filed a motion Friday seeking to have manslaughter charges dismissed.

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