September 21, 2006

Re: Judge Decided on Station Fire Plea Deal

Carroll Andrew Morse

There are at least four problems with Judge Francis Darigan's statement regarding the Derderian pleas in the Station Fire case that Marc posted on earlier this afternoon.

Two problems appear in the first two paragraphs of the 7-to-7 report on Judge Darigan's statement...

Superior Court Associate Justice Francis J. Darigan said this afternoon that he decided to accept a plea in The Station nightclub fire case to spare victims' families and the state the trauma of criminal trials.

Darigan also acknowledged that he approved the terms of the deal with club co-owners Michael and Jeffrey Derderian over the objection of the state Attorney General's Office.

1. The Judge says he "approved the terms of the deal". We know who was on one side of the deal -- the Derderian's lawyers. Who was on the other side? Was the judge negotiating independently, or did he take an intermediate offer being negotiated by the AG and decree it to be the final deal? There are problems in either scenario.

2. The Judge says he decided to accept the plea "to spare victims' families and the state the trauma of criminal trials". But a judge's job is to apply the law impartially. It is a prosecutor's job is to decide which cases to bring maximum resources to and which cases to dispose of quickly. Why is the Judge usurping prosecutorial discretion here?

The third and fourth problems aren't legal issues, but concern what appears to be a disturbing display of judicial arrogance...

He also criticized the Attorney General's Office for what he called leaking news of the agreement to the press yesterday, calling it unethical....

Darigan said he would like the media to focus less on the back-and-forth between the Attorney General's Office and the court and more on the merits of the plea agreement.

3. Courts have no business trying to hide their actions from the public, unless the rights of people not on trial may be infringed by revealing certain information in open court. So exactly on what basis is Judge Darigan asserting that there should be some sort secrecy regarding this plea deal?

4. And what gives any judge the right to tell the media what they should and shouldn't be reporting on?

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This whole thing is a charade with the simple goal of hiding the ugly reality that would have come to light in a trial - that the fire inspector was to blame for this fire by not doing his job. The Democrat/union coalition that runs this state got together and came up with this "he said/she said" smokescreen to divert attention to what is really going on. The defense was prepared to show just how incompetent the fire department was and the lengths they went to to hide this fact.

Posted by: Kramer at September 21, 2006 7:44 PM


I don't see how the sideshow involving the press leaks makes anything about this case any less visible. If the fact that the deal that Judge Darigan accepted was almost exactly the same as the the deal that the AG offered had never been revealed, things would be much smoother for both the AG & Derderians. The AG would have been able to say he was prevented from doing his job by an over-reaching judge (which may be true), and Darigan would have absorbed the brunt of the public dissatisfaction.

And I don't see what the Derderian defense lawyers are trying to gain by making the details of their plea negotiations public.

Posted by: Andrew at September 21, 2006 8:16 PM

I was a juror on a case with this judge a few years ago and I'm surprised that, if true, he brokered this deal.

To me the deal smacks the face of the families of the 100 victims.

Worst of all, a sidebar question came to my mind about this case....I won't ask it as to not sidetrack this thread...but in coming days I may post about it.

In any event, i think this is horrible and that culpability has been essentially washed away from the Derderians.

Posted by: don roach at September 22, 2006 12:22 AM

If it comes to having to "judge" which one of them is being truthful, I'm sorry, but it will be "no contest." Judge Darigan has more integrity in his pinky finger than Patty Lynch could ever hope to have in his life. This deal, which -- whether or not the incompetent Lynch realizes it yet -- his office consented to, stinks, stinks, stinks...

While the jail time that will be given to the Derdarian's was probably roughly what they would have gotten in the event of a full trial, the main point that I hope everyone will take away from this is that the discovery process has been halted and that we will never really get to know the full scope of what happened. Yes, a 100 people died, but there was a lot more behind the scenes that contributed to it. Who exactly does this all benefit? At least a few officials in West Warwick, from what I can tell. It's certainly not the families of the victims.

There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that Pattyboy Lynch had all this planned out well in advance, so that he could minimize damage to himself. Fortunately, in that regard, I think it may have backfired. It would not be the first time he's been selfish, whether in or out of his office.

Posted by: Will at September 22, 2006 12:55 AM

The culpability of the Derderians is nothing compared to that of the West Warwick Fire Department.

Posted by: Jim at September 22, 2006 6:06 AM

Mull this one over. There is a coverup going on in this fire investigation that would have come out in a trial and it would have exposed the absolute incompetence that reigns in West Warwick.

If West Warwick can't properly oversee a simple fire violation how can they be trusted to oversee a casino?

And the vote for that casino is when? Shortly after this trial would have ended.

Posted by: JSheehan at September 22, 2006 6:19 AM


Your theory would be plausible if it had been the AG who accepted the lenient deal, but he didn't. That means that Judge Darigan would have to a) have been in on an alleged coverup and b) have agreed to be the fall guy for any public dissatisfaction.

As far as I know, no one is alleging any corruption-style impropriety on the part of Darigan. (Honest but bad judging is another matter entirely).

Posted by: Andrew at September 22, 2006 9:30 AM

I would contend that the AG did accept the deal, through his surrogate, but is now lying about his role to protect his political rear end. I think the Judge is ethical enough not to do (a) actively participate in a cover-up, but is in a position (a life-time appointment) to have possibily done (b). He's a pretty nice guy, and he certainly could have agreed to take the heat, if it meant (in his mind) sparing the victims' families from further suffering. You don't have to be corrupt to be a fall guy.

Posted by: Will at September 22, 2006 1:09 PM

If West Warwick can't properly oversee a simple fire violation how can they be trusted to oversee a casino?
Sobering thought indeed. The opponents don't dare voice it officially, though.

Posted by: rhodeymark at September 22, 2006 1:30 PM

i agree with will (as usual it seems). lynch not only accepted the deal, but put it on the table twic. now if it was only meant to have been used as a bargaining chip, then he should have started bargaining at a higher price, or in this case, a tougher sentence (rule #1 of bargaining 101).

as far as i'm concerned, the buck stops with lynch. darigan had no choice but to accept the deal proposed by the prosecution once the defense decided to accept.

lynch was wrong to try to pin this on the judge and then his lead attorney. he's the AG. if wants to pretend that he's not in control of the prosecutorial activities in his office, fine. but it's totally disingenuous and it's not exactly a glowing quality i would want in the state's chief law enforcement officer

so...he's either a.) unqualified for the job or b.) totally politically motivated

Posted by: johnb at September 22, 2006 2:19 PM

Don't be so naive. Of course Lynch OK'd this deal. How do you think it ever got presented. This is a carefully scripted ploy where he can now say he doesn't like it and play the good guy, knowing full well that it is too late for that and the trial won't go forward, which is just what the powers that be want.
Andrew - do you actually believe that this deal was ever presented without the full knowledge of Lynch? In one of the biggest trials in this states history, do you think the AG was not aware of a plea bargain being put forth?? Like. some underling took it upon him/herself to present this without the authorization of the AG? Get real!
You have bought this charade hook, line and sinker - just how the AG wanted it to appear.

Posted by: JSheehan at September 22, 2006 8:26 PM

What hasn't been mentioned is that defense lawyer Kathleen Hagerty was FIRED by Lynch and has a motive to exspose the corrupt double dealings engaged in by BOTH the AG's office and Darigan. With the release of the Ferland voicemail you people are getting a glimpse of the filth that goes on behind the curtain. As someone who has actually been there, let me tell you it is not just Lynch but also the Judges like Darigan, Rodgers, Torres, etc. who are always referred to in the Projo (with great amusmement to us insiders) as "well respected".

Posted by: Mike at September 23, 2006 8:17 AM

Can someone please post an e-mail or telephone number for this "Almighty Judge" who believes he's "above" the judicial system?

Also, maybe the Governor should seriously look into removing this person from office. He clearly does not have the victim's rights in mind. Do the people of this State really want their tax money supporting this kind of ineptness?

Posted by: DC at September 29, 2006 7:36 PM