GREAT WHITE Singer Won't Answer Fire Lawsuits, Citing Fear Of Prosecution

January 31, 2005

The Associated Press is reporting that GREAT WHITE singer Jack Russell has refused to answer allegations in civil suits filed against him by victims of the deadly nightclub fire that was sparked by the band's pyrotechnics.

In papers filed in U.S. District Court, Russell's lawyers said he "faces a real possibility of criminal prosecution" for the 2003 fire that killed 100 people, and that therefore, he is asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

Mike Healey, spokesman for Attorney General Patrick Lynch, told The Providence Journal for Monday's editions that "there is no open grand jury investigation going on" in connection with the West Warwick nightclub fire, and that the Rhode Island attorney general's office has no plans to prosecute anyone besides the three defendants currently under indictment.

"But the fact he feels he still needs to take the Fifth says, loud and clear, that we did not immunize him and absolutely made no promises to him" in speaking with him after the fire, Healey said. Asked whether Russell has agreed to testify for the prosecution against his former band member, Daniel Biechele, who stands indicted with the two owners of the nightclub — Michael and Jeffrey Derderian — on 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter, Healey refused comment.

"I can't talk to you about that question," he said, citing a gag order issued by Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan Jr., who is presiding over the criminal cases.

A grand jury indicted the club's two owners and the band's former tour manager each on 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Eight civil lawsuits are pending in federal court on behalf of survivors of fire and victim's families.

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