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Co-owner in R.I. club fire gets early release

The co-owner of a nightclub who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for a fire that killed 100 people can be free early from prison in 2009, the state parole board decided Wednesday.
Image: Michael Derderian
Michael Derderian is shown in this Sept. 5, 2006, file photo. Stew Milne / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The co-owner of a nightclub who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for a fire that killed 100 people can leave prison early, but not until next year, the state parole board decided Wednesday.

Michael Derderian, 46, still must serve more than three years of his four-year sentence before being paroled in October 2009.

He pleaded no contest in September 2006 to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Feb. 20, 2003, blaze at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, which was sparked by pyrotechnics during a Great White concert. More than 200 others were injured in the fire.

Parole board Chairwoman Lisa Holley said in a written statement that the board decided to release Michael Derderian next year, rather than having to conduct another parole hearing, because of the "enormity of the loss and trauma suffered by many." All but one member voted to grant parole.

Victims' families pleas
Derderian appeared before the parole board Wednesday, a week after victims' relatives asked the board to force him to serve his entire sentence, saying he ran a dangerous business and failed to show enough remorse for his role in the disaster.

Diane Mattera, whose 29-year-old daughter, Tammy Mattera-Housa, was killed, said that she was happy Derderian would stay in prison longer and that she won't have to go through the wrenching process of another parole hearing.

"I do not have to go in front of the parole board in a few more months to plead my heart out" to keep Derderian behind bars, she said.

But Chris Fontaine, whose son, Mark, 22, died, said she was disappointed because she feels the victims' families pleas have repeatedly fallen on "deaf ears."

"It wouldn't have bothered me to go to another hearing and plead my case again," she said.

Derderian's lawyer, Kathleen Hagerty, did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

Punishment and plea deals
Derderian has been disciplined several times for breaking the rules at his work release job and in prison. He lost his work-release job and was transferred from the prison's minimum-security facility to medium security.

Derderian's brother and the club's other co-owner, Jeffrey Derderian, also pleaded no contest to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter but was spared jail time under a plea deal and ordered to do 500 hours of community service.

The only other man jailed for the fire, former Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele, is scheduled to be released on parole in March. Biechele was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to lighting the pyrotechnics without a required permit.