Appeals Court: No prison time for E2 club owners
November 16, 2011 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A state appellate court threw out the guilty verdicts and prison sentences of the former owners of E2, a Chicago night club where 21 people died in a stampede in 2003.
In 2009, E2 owners Calvin Hollins and Dwain Kyles were found guilty of violating a judge's order to close the club's second floor. They were both sentenced to two years in prison, but have remained out on appeal.
That sentence and their convictions of indirect criminal contempt were tossed out Wednesday. The court ruling disagrees that the formal order closing the club was as clear and unambiguous as the city argued. Appellate Judge Michael Murphy says the city's law clerk should have included three words following "mandatory order not to occupy second floor" in the formal order -- either "of the building" or "of the nightclub." The court also ruled that the court said the city didn't explain how the violations caused the deaths or injuries.
On February 17, 2003, 21 people were killed after a body guard used pepper spray, starting a stampede out the front door of the club. Fifty other patrons were injured.
"It is what it is. It is a tragic, tragic accident that could have been avoided not by us being closed, which was never the issue at all, but by them. . .rescuing individuals who were trapped in the hallways that night," Hollins told ABC7 after the ruling.
"Relief is the word that comes to mind right now. I'm relieved that it's finally over as far as this part is concerned, it's been a 10-year journey," he said.
Hollins says the entire situation was a mistake, not a crime and the city bears some responsibility.
"Had the city done what they were supposed to have done that night no one would have ever had to die, I mean no one, had the city moved in and done the rescue attempt as they should have done immediately instead of waiting 30 minutes before pulling these young people out," he said.
A spokesperson for the City of Chicago said, "We are disappointed with the court's decision. In our view, respondents violated a clear and mandatory court order, and but for that violation no one would have died or been injured at their club. We are continuing to review the court's opinion to determine whether to seek further review."
Hollins says the original order was never clear to them, as owners.
"The reference to a second floor VIP room, which was the second floor VIP room, but the order never stated emphatically the second floor," said Hollins.
Hollins is relieved for now, but given the years he has been involved, he is looking ahead, cautiously.
"If something else comes up regarding this case I'll continue to fight because I did nothing wrong," he said.
Danielle Greene died in the stampede, and, to this day her sister believes that no one is being held accountable, especially with Wednesday's legal twist.
"It was something that could have been prevented, but it wasn't. So I just want you to own up, and take responsibility for what happened," said Channon Jefferson, Greene's sister.
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