PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The former manager of the heavy metal rock group Great White has agreed to plead guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter for his role in a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people.
Daniel Biechele, 29, will enter the plea next Tuesday and serve no more than 10 years in state prison under a deal with prosecutors, sparing him the possibility of many more years behind bars, Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan said.
Biechele had been charged with 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter for starting the blaze 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 killed 100 people and injured more than 200 in the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in the country's history.
Some victims' relatives reacted angrily to news of the plea bargain, saying they hoped to see Biechele go to trial. Each manslaughter charge carries up to 30 years in prison.
"For the 100 victims, and for all the ones that are burnt and scarred and everything else, they deserve much more than this — not a plea bargain. This is absolutely wrong," said Diane Mattera, whose 29-year-old daughter, Tammy, was killed in the fire.
Darigan did not say whether Biechele will cooperate with prosecutors in the case against club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who each are charged with 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter for allegedly installing the flammable foam in violation of the state fire code.
Tom Briody, a lawyer for Biechele, declined to comment on the terms of plea deal, but told reporters that Biechele never intended to harm anyone and was remorseful. Biechele has said through his lawyer that he had permission to light the pyrotechnics during the concert, but the Derderians have disputed that.
A lawyer for the Derderians declined to comment on the plea, and Attorney General Patrick Lynch declined to say why prosecutors agreed to the deal and did not address concerns from some of the victims' relatives.
The three defendants were charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for each of the 100 people killed. One count per death alleged criminal negligence, the other accused the defendants of committing underlying offenses that led to the deaths.