Co-owner of R.I. club where 100 died to be released early

Families voice their dismay

Michael Derderian pleaded no contest to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Michael Derderian pleaded no contest to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Email|Print| Text size + By Eric Tucker
Associated Press / January 17, 2008

PROVIDENCE - The co-owner of a nightclub where fire killed 100 people in 2003 was granted an early release from prison yesterday, but Michael Derderian will not be freed until late next year, after serving more than three years of his four-year sentence.

Derderian, 46, went to prison in September 2006 for the fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick that was sparked by pyrotechnics for the rock band Great White.

He became eligible for parole this month after completing a third of his sentence, but faced an uphill battle to be released after discipline problems in prison and pleas from various interests to keep him behind bars.

Derderian appeared before the Parole Board yesterday, a week after victims' relatives asked the board to force him to serve his entire sentence, saying he had run a dangerous business and failed to show enough remorse for his role in the disaster.

Parole Board chairwoman Lisa Holley said in a written statement that the board decided to release Derderian in October 2009 and not to set another parole hearing because of the "enormity of the loss and trauma suffered by many."

All but one member voted to grant parole.

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

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

Derderian pleaded no contest to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in September 2006 for installing flammable foam on the club's walls and ceiling as soundproofing.

The foam was ignited by the pyrotechnics and quickly spread the flames through the building.

More than 200 people were injured in the Feb. 20, 2003, blaze.

Since being sent to prison, Michael Derderian has been disciplined for breaking the rules at his work release job and in prison. He lost his work-release job and was transferred from minimum to medium security.

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

Former Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele is to be released on parole in March. Biechele pleaded guilty to lighting the pyrotechnics without a required permit and is serving a four-year sentence.

Family members of the victims have long directed blame at the Derderians, even as they have expressed leniency and forgiveness for Biechele.

Jody King, a brother of one fire victim and a childhood friend of Derderian who spoke on his behalf in front of the Parole Board last week, said he had hoped that Derderian would be out of prison by the summer.

"There were so many other people to blame in this," King said. "There are so many people who are angry. Michael's the only one they can be angry with right now."

King said he spoke yesterday with Jeffrey Derderian, who was disappointed by the board's decision.

"Jeffrey really needs his brother home," King said.

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