Daniel M. Biechele awaits sentencing
Barry Chin  /  AFP - Getty Images
Daniel Biechele listens to the prosecution's sentencing arguments on Wednesday, the final day of his sentencing trial at Rhode Island Superior Court in Providence.
updated 5/10/2006 5:45:07 PM ET 2006-05-10T21:45:07

A former rock-band manager whose pyrotechnics caused a nightclub fire that killed 100 people was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison.

Daniel Biechele, 29, could have gotten as much as 10 years behind bars under a deal he struck with prosecutors in February, when he pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. He also received an 11-year suspended sentence and three years of probation.

“The greatest sentence that can be imposed upon you has been imposed upon you by yourself,” Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan Jr. told Biechele, drawing sobs and groans from some of those in the courtroom.

The sentence came after two days of anguished testimony from the victims’ families, who told of college graduations they would never see, grandchildren they would never hold and grief so powerful that they could not get out of bed in the morning and looked forward to death to be reunited with their loved ones.

Sparks ignited foam in 2003 blaze
Biechele was the tour manager for heavy metal band Great White when on Feb. 20, 2003, he lit a pyrotechnics display that ignited highly flammable foam that lined the walls and ceiling of The Station nightclub in West Warwick. The foam was used as soundproofing and was placed there by the owners after neighbors complained about noise from the club.

Many of the 100 people who were killed that night either were quickly overcome by fumes emitted by the foam or became trapped in a crush at the front door.

More than 200 others were injured in the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history, and the worst fire in state history.

Earlier Wednesday, Biechele’s attorney, Thomas Briody, argued that his client deserved mercy — in the form of community service, with no prison time — and feels immense sorrow for his role in the blaze.

“I ask you to consider this: Dan Biechele is the only man in this tragedy to stand up and say I did something wrong,” Briody said. “He’s the only man to say, ‘I apologize.”’

Wrenching impact statements
At a Tuesday sentencing hearing, many family members of fire victims who submitted written statements said they were debilitated by post-traumatic stress and depression because of their loved ones’ deaths.

The family of 22-year-old Derek Gray, of Dracut, said Gray’s girlfriend gave birth to the couple’s daughter six months after the blaze.

“Our enjoyment of just about everything has been taken away,” they said. “It’s a struggle everyday to just get up and function.”

For one, thoughts of suicide
Nancy Crisostomi, mother of 38-year-old fire victim Alfred Crisostomi, wrote: “Many times I have considered taking my own life, but my faith prevents it.”

Clair Hoogasian, Paula McLaughlin, Jay McLaughlin
Mary Murphy  /  AP
Paula McLaughlin, center, sister of nightclub fire victim Michael Hoogasian, reads her impact statement Monday as her husband, Jay, right, and her mother, Claire Hoogasian, left, listen during a court hearing for Dan Biechele in Providence, R.I.,

The owners of the nightclub, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, are accused of installing the flammable foam that allowed the fire to spread.

They have pleaded not guilty to 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter — two counts for each person killed, under separate legal theories.

Michael Derderian’s trial is tentatively scheduled July 31; his brother’s hasn’t been set.

Biechele, recently married, now lives in Florida and works for a flooring company.

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