The band manager whose pyrotechnics ignited a nightclub blaze that killed 100 people was granted parole Wednesday and will be released after serving less than half of his sentence.
Daniel Biechele, the former tour manager for the 1980s band Great White, is scheduled for release in March, the state parole board said. He has served 16 months of a four-year sentence levied after he pleaded guilty last year to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Biechele, 30, lit pyrotechnics as a stage prop at the start of a Great White concert at The Station nightclub in West Warwick. Sparks from the explosives ignited flammable soundproofing foam around the stage, and the flames quickly spread throughout the one-story roadhouse as patrons tried to escape.
Besides the 100 killed, more than 200 others were injured in the 2003 fire.
In prison, Biechele has stayed out of trouble and worked as a bookkeeper for a nonprofit agency. Parole board chairwoman Lisa Holley said the board considered factors such as risk of re-offending, plans for life after prison and input from victims' relatives in deciding to grant Biechele parole.
Devices lit without permit
Biechele admitted lighting the devices without the required permit and tearfully apologized at his sentencing. He said he never intended for anyone to be harmed and wasn't sure he could ever forgive himself.
Biechele's lawyer, Tom Briody, declined to comment.
Prosecutors had sought a 10-year prison sentence for Biechele, the maximum possible punishment under the terms of his plea deal. A judge gave him four years instead.
Attorney General Patrick Lynch said that while he disagreed with the board's decision, he respected it "because it is the product of a careful consideration that has included the voice of victims, whose voices matter more than anybody else's."
Victims' relatives had been mixed on Biechele's bid to leave prison early. At a hearing earlier this month, several family members praised Biechele for being the first person to accept responsibility for the fire and said he was just one of many individuals to blame.
"I've forgiven him for any little part he may have played," said Leland Hoisington, whose 28-year-old daughter, Abbie, died.
But others said it would be an injustice for him to be released early.
Victim’s mom decries state’s move
Diane Mattera is raising her grandson, 14-year-old Nathan, after her daughter, Tammy Mattera-Housa, then 29, died in the fire.
"How do I tell him that's what his mother's life is worth?" Mattera said. "I try to teach him about owning up and standing up and everything, and then the state turns around and doesn't follow through."
Two other men, club owners and brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, also were convicted of 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the fire. Both pleaded no contest. Michael Derderian was sentenced in September 2006 to four years in prison and is not yet eligible for parole. Jeffrey Derderian was sentenced to 500 hours of community service and probation.