Station Fire Plea Deal: Who Made the Decision?

One of the very first blog posts I ever wrote was in reaction to the Station Night Club fire. Now the ProJo and other outlets are reporting that the Derderian’s have agreed to a plea deal and that there will be no trial. The one big question is: Who offered the deal?

Attorney-General Patrick Lynch has sent a letter to the victims’ families explaining that he disagrees with the plea deal:

Superior Court Associate Justice Francis J. Darigan Jr., has advised my office that, on September 29, 2006, he will allow Defendants Michael Derderian and Jeffrey Derderian to withdraw their ”not guilty” pleas and enter “nolo contendere” (meaning no contest) pleas to one hundred counts of involuntary manslaughter. The nolo contendere pleas are equivalent to admissions of guilt by Michael Derderian and Jeffrey Derderian. Judge Darigan is expected to sentence each Defendant for those crimes after hearing from the victims. Depending upon the number of victims who appear, sentencing may occur on that same date….
….I want each of you to understand that as Attorney General, I have not agreed to this disposition, and I will continue to strongly voice my objection.
….Faced with evidence gathered by my office, in conjunction with the West Warwick Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Warwick Police, the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal and the Rhode Island State Police, and with the expected testimony of Daniel Biechele, both Michael Derderian and Jeffrey Derderian last week informed Judge Darigan that they were prepared to accept responsibility for their roles in the fire at The Station nightclub and change their not guilty pleas.
Despite their desire to admit to the charges against them, I was unwilling to recommend or agree to the sentences that I have been advised the Court will impose.
Subsequently, Judge Darigan decided that, in light of the Defendants’ willingness to plead to one hundred counts of involuntary manslaughter, he would accept those pleas without the agreement of my office. Though it had been my desire to bring these cases to trial….the law shows the Court to accept a change of plea without the Attorney General’s agreement.
Judge Darigan has stated that he has taken into consideration what he anticipates would be the untold emotional impact and pain that two trials, each of which could last upwards of four months, would inevitably cause…
I respectfully disagree with, and object to, the sentences that the Court intends to impose on Michael Derderian and Jeffrey Derderian. Most significantly, I strongly disagree with the Court’s intention to sentence Jeffrey Derderian to less than jail.
Notwithstanding my objection to, the sentences that Judge Darigan intends to impose, there can be no dispute that the right to a trial that the United States Constitution affords is a right that belongs to the accused, not to the State. In other words, our system of justice does not allow the State to demand a trial; that right belongs exclusively to the criminal defendant.

The Derderian’s attorney, Kathleen Hagerty, disputes the Attorney-General’s explanation:

Kathleen Hagerty, lawyer for the Derderians, disputes Lynch’s claim and told NBC 10’s Brian Crandall that “the attorney general made that offer to us on Aug. 10, and at the time, the Derderians rejected the deal” wanting to go to trial so that “everyone would know what happened, and that the truth about the fire would come out.”
Hagerty continued saying that after talking to potential witnesses, it was just too painful and that the Derderians wanted to spare the witnesses, survivors and the families from reliving the horrors of that night. As a result, the Derderians went back and “Judge (Darigan) honored the attorney general’s offer despite them trying to renege on it.”

And Judge Darigan has also issued a statement, according to the ProJo story:

Darigan did not return a call seeking comment last night, but a courts spokesman released a statement. “There is a plan for the dignified release of information that is sensitive to the families of the victims of the tragic fire at The Station nightclub,” spokesman Craig N. Berke said. “The premature release of information about this matter is unfortunate and will be answered.” The statement said the court will have a further response around noon today.

Before jumping to conclusions, we must wait to see the source of the plea deal: Judge Darigan or AG Lynch’s office. But regardless of who offered the deal–and despite AG Lynch’s promise that he will make legal materials (evidence) available to the public–the fact is that the lack of a trial will prevent the trial process from doing what it often does best, which is to inform the public. Now we can only hope that the local media will do the digging to fill in the gray areas. In particular, the public deserves to know the culpability of local and state government officials who didn’t properly inspect or permit the Station Night club.

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16 years ago

SINCE 2003 ag lynch has used this to his politcal advantage. saying how he was going to get everyone involved. what a farce it was all along. i could see this coming, he blew the whole thing up and then there is virtually no crime. i only hope all of the evidence comes out or how little there is….
setting aside emotion, thius was a crazy accident and lots of misjudgement and errors by the dederians, great white,dan biechle, fire marshals in ww and ri,
you could never blame this on just one person.
and dont forget the waste of time and money by the ags office. all the cases that were put aside for 3 yeasr to handle this and nothing to show for it.

16 years ago

As Rhode Islanders, you should be proud of your AG. He’s brought the typical level of Rhode Island bravado to the job and to this case in particular. Unfortunately, he’s also brought the typical level of Rhode Island incompetence. If you can’t put someone away for more than 4 years for killing 100 people, you don’t deserver the job of Attorney General.
And if Bill Harsch can’t capitalize on this, he’s incompetent as well.
I’m sure Dan Yorke will have he close friend and pal Patrick on today and give him plenty of opportunity to defend himself while failing to force him to answer the hard questions….again.

16 years ago

it’s no secret that i’m no fan of AG Lynch. but this goes so far beyond any previous gripe i had with the way he has “represented” rhode island!
let’s be clear: according to the journal, lynch’s office made the first offer in august and a second in early september. THOSE OFFERS WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN MADE WITHOUT LYNCH’S APPROVAL. Lynch probably wanted more probation. BIG DEAL.
And if the AG was so intent on settling this case, and a deal was struck back on Sept. 12 or thereabouts, THEN WHAT’S WITH THE HIGHLY PUBLICIZED JURY SELECTION!!!???
THIS STINKS! Whitehouse had Jen Rivera. Now Patrick has the Station Nightclub trial

16 years ago

Maybe the manufacturer of the foam struck a deal whereby they have to donate $100 to one of the AG’s favorite Boston charities…

16 years ago

I’m not angry over the plea bargain as much I am over Lynch’s attempt to have it both ways – what kind of fools does he think we are if he expects us to believe he didn’t authorize the offer?
Interesting timing, too: Some of the West Warwick town officials who would’ve been witnesses have lawyers like Alves, Williamsson, etc….a lot of the same hos who are trying to shove the casino down our throats. You don’t suppose the casino folks put Lynch up to this because they didn’t want some of their major players tangled up in this trial with Question 1 on the ballot, do you?
Guess I’m voting for another Republican in a few weeks.

16 years ago

“In particular, the public deserves to know the culpability of local and state government officials who didn’t properly inspect or permit the Station Night club.”
Dave Kane said on WPRO this morning that his argument is not with the Derderians’ sentence but that those most culpable for this fire, the West Warwick fire and building inspectors, were never indicted.
It should be clear. They were not indicted not because of a loophole in the law (sovereign immunity for the inspectors is not absolute) or a lack of evidence but BECAUSE PATRICK LYNCH DID NOT WANT TO. And a lot of political insiders share his view.

16 years ago

Glaring incompetence from the office of AG Patrick Lynch … and I guess we’re supposed to be shocked?
I love how he’s trying to say “it’s not my fault”, but that the Projo printed the handwritten note for the plea deal from his subordinate, who (according to the defense) the AG had okayed. Lynch can’t be allowed to have it both ways. As for “who offered the deal” — that’s fairly clear, it was the prosecutor, who works for AG Lynch. The only question that remains is did the AG agree to it — at least according to the judge he (or his office) did.

Joe Mahn
Joe Mahn
16 years ago

And we wonder why the heathen rage.
There is only one word to describe this fiasco and that’s it. How could these morons be any more of an embarrassment than to screw up the most tragic event in RI history.
Here are a few others you can use tomorrow when you talk about this: abortion, blunder, bobble, bomb, botched situation, breakdown, debacle, disaster, embarrassment, error, failure, farce, flap, flop, mess, miscarriage, route, ruin, screwup, stunt.
Yeah I used my thesaurus.
J Mahn

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