E2 owners get 2 years in prison each

November 25, 2009 7:54:25 AM PST
The owners of a Chicago nightclub where 21 people died in a stampede were sentenced to prison.Dwain Kyles and Calvin Hollins are ordered to begin serving a two year sentence on January 5.

People supporting the owners jammed the courtroom Tuesday, hoping to influence the judge's decision.

Some believe the city should be held responsible for its response to the tragedy in 2003, not the owners.

After years in court the only criminal responsibility for the E2 tragedy is for contempt of court. And for that the judge sentenced Calvin Hollins and Dwain Kyles to two years in prison on Tuesday.

Gale Garrett Butler has waited nearly seven years for justice for her daughter Theresa's death at the E2 nightclub. Teresa Johnson-Gordon was celebrating her 31st birthday.

But a fight on the dance floor led to a stampede out of the club's second floor. Johnson-Gordon was one of the 21 people who died. However, sending the club's owners, Dwain Kyles and Calvin Hollins, to prison is not the justice she says she's looking for.

"For those two to be spending time in jail, there is no value to me. I still haven't gotten an answer as to why did my child have to die?" said Garrett Butler.

After years of court proceedings, the last possible criminal exposure for the club owners led to guilty verdicts in housing court for disobeying a court order to close the club's second floor.

City attorneys asked the judge to impose a five year prison sentence.

"Those 21 people would still be alive today if those four court orders had been obeyed. That is all you had to do. Just close the place," said Walter Jones, city attorney.

Hollins and Kyles maintain they rented out the club to an independent operator that night and they had no control.

"I grew up with a lot of those individuals who perished that day. I would say nine individuals. Four of my children worked at that facility, I would have never put them in harms way at all," said Hollins Jr.

The judge had the latitude to sentence anything from probation to a fine to prison time.

A packed courthouse of supporters, including numerous prominent politicians asked the judge to spare them jail time.

Many believe the city shares responsibility with the owners because they failed to shut the club down and they question the city's emergency response that night.

"Rather than calling for rescue personnel, the city called for riot personnel," said Rep. Bobby Rush.

A spokesperson for the city's law department says allegations that city emergency workers failed to save people were raised in a civil suit and were dismissed by an appeals court.

Attorneys for Hollins and Kyles say they will appeal both the sentence and the verdict.


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