Verdict in E2 housing court case

September 24, 2009 8:35:20 AM PDT
A jury has found the former owners of a nightclub where 21 people died in a stampede six years ago guilty of indirect criminal contempt. Dwain Kyles and Calvin Hollins were the owners of Epitome/E2 night club when 21 people were killed during a stampede on February 17, 2003. Dozens of others were injured.

It's the first time Dwain Kyles and Calvin Hollins have been held legally accountable in connection with the tragedy. They've long maintained their innocence but some families of the victims say today's verdict finally delivers some justice.

Six-year-old Aniya Myers is learning how to write her name in kindergarten. Her grandparents are raising her. She was just five weeks old when her father, Antonio, was killed in the E2 nightclub tragedy. They say it's been tough but they have forgiven the club's owners. They blame the city for allowing the club to stay open.

"The owners have taken the fall... who's gonna prosecute the city? Who's gonna prosecute them? That's where the responsibility lies," said Archie Myers, victim's father.

It was the city that prosecuted E2 owners Dwain Kyles and Calvin Hollins for violating a judge's orders to close the second floor of the club. That's where many in the overcrowded club were trampled, killing 21 people that night in February 2003 as they tried to leave down the lone open stairway.

"There are 21 people dead. If this club had been closed like it was supposed to have been closed, those persons would not have been dead," said Walter Jones, city attorney.

"I haven't done anything wrong. I really haven't done anything wrong," said Dwain Kyles, defendant and former nightclub owner.

Owner Dwain Kyles says he made sure the people running the dance at the club that night knew the second floor balcony was off limits. His interpretation of the city's order was that the second floor could be open but not the balcony.

"To the extent that there was any shenanigans, I was at home in bed, I did not have anything to do with that and would not have condoned it at all had I known," said Kyles.

"It's baffling to me right now that they can find us guilty of something that obviously didn't happen.," said Calvin Hollins Jr., defendant and former nightclub owner.

Pamela Greene lost her niece, Danielle, at E2. She says it's been incredibly difficult on the family.

"It was horrific, tragic accident and it's gone on for seven years and someone needs to pay," said Greene.

Dwain Kyles says he's had to file bankruptcy and has nearly $1 million in legal bills. He's already settled the civil suits from the family.

The judge in Wednesday's case is not bound by any sentencing guidelines. He can impose anything from a fine to many years in prison.

Both Kyles and Hollins plan to appeal.


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