Cocoanut Grove on fire! (11-28-42)

The Evening Star (December 31, 1942)

Eleven are indicted in probe of Boston fire, killing 489

Charges kept secret, but grand jury hits officials’ ‘laxity’

Boston, Massachusetts (AP) –
A grand jury today returned 11 secret indictments in connection with the Cocoanut Grove Night Club fire Nov. 28, in which 489 panic-stricken persons lost their lives in a horror of flame, smoke and gas.

Simultaneously, the 20-man Suffolk County grand jury issued a series of findings and recommendations, declaring there had been:

…laxity, incompetence, failure to fulfill prescribed duties effectively and also lack of complete knowledge of duties" among members of various departments charged with the protection of public safety.

In a lashing statement, the jury said it intended to record its conclusions:

…even though such evidence may fall short of establishing the willfulness or corruption required to make neglect of duty a criminal offense.

The jury said:

We have found shifting of responsibility and a tendency by various officials in different important departments who relied too much on their subordinates without exercising a sufficient and proper check on such subordinates.

We have found no complete coordination between the buildings department, fire department, police department, and licensing board, with respect to various types of inspection intended to be made to insure public safety in addition to protecting the public health, morals, et cetera.

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The Pittsburgh Press (January 4, 1943)

Nine plead innocent in Boston club fire

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
Nine of 10 defendants pleaded innocent today when arranged in Superior Court on manslaughter, conspiracy or negligence charges growing out of the Cocoanut Grove fire which took 489 lives.

The only defendant who failed to appear was Police Captain Joseph Buccigross, who is charged with neglect of duty and corruptly failing to enforce fire laws. It was announced in court that he was confined to his home by illness. Special arrangements will be made for his arrangement.

In continuing the cases until Jan. 12 for the filing of special pleas, Superior Judge Frank J. Donahue released the defendants in the same bail as when they were arrested Thursday. It totaled $88,500.

The Pittsburgh Press (January 10, 1943)

Hurt in nightclub fire, man jumps to his death

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) – (Jan. 9)
The death toll of the Cocoanut Grove holocaust rose to 490 today when Francis Gatturni, 31, of Roslindale, one of those injured, committed suicide by leaping from a window at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The Pittsburgh Press (April 10, 1943)

Jury handed fate of 3 in Boston fire

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
The manslaughter case against three men blamed for the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire that cost 491 lives went to the jury at 1 p.m. today after a month-long trial.

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The Pittsburgh Press (April 15, 1943)

Nightclub owner is given 15 years

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
Barnett Welansky, owner of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison today for manslaughter in connection with the fire at his club last Nov. 28 which cost 491 lives.

Judge Joseph Hurley imposed the prison sentence on each of 19 counts, but ordered that they all be served concurrently – the first day in solitary confinement and the rest at hard labor. The possible maximum sentence would have been 20 years in prison.

The 46-year-old defendant, a Boston lawyer, stared ahead as sentence was pronounced.

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so this decision was taken at the lower court level right? So… in case he goes for higher courts… would he be in prison or the sentence dropped till the issue is resolved in the higher courts?

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