Amid plans for a benefit tour to aid the victims of the fire at their February 20th Rhode Island show, Great White are asking fans to help finance their legal defense against the multi-million-dollar lawsuits stemming from the incident.
A letter addressed to "music fans" and posted on Internet metal radio station KNAC.com (it has since been pulled from the site) solicits donations to the Great White Trust. "The sole purpose of this Trust," the letter explains, "is to allow friends and fans of Great White, music fans in general, and other musicians to donate to a legal fund, to at least allow the band to have proper representation so that they can defend themselves. This Trust is not to be used for any purpose other than covering costs associated with the criminal and civil proceedings. If any funds are left after the legal costs are covered, they will be disbursed to one or more of the charities set up to benefit the victims and their families."
The letter instructs prospective donors to contact Great White's attorney Ed McPherson for more information about the trust. When contacted by Rolling Stone, McPherson confirmed the trust's authenticity, but distanced himself from it. "I have nothing to do with the fund," he said, adding that "the text of the letter might upset some of the victims and their families."
The fund's administrator is Great White's business manager, Margaret Robley, according to McPherson. The address listed for donors to send contributions is that of her office. Robley, however, declined comment about the trust, saying that she needed to consult with McPherson.
The most significant legal action pending against Great White, whose use of pyrotechnics set off the blaze at the Station nightclub, is a federal lawsuit filed April 22nd in U.S. District Court in Providence. The multi-million-dollar suit, filed by two survivors of the fire and the family of one of the deceased, also names as defendants Great White's management, Knight Records, the Station's owners, pyrotechnics manufacturer Luna Tech, foam manufacturer American Foam, the concert's sponsors Clear Channel Entertainment and Anheuser-Busch, the town of West Warwick, and the state of Rhode Island.
One hundred people, including Great White guitarist Ty Longley, are now dead as a result of the fire.
Great White singer Jack Russell announced the benefit tour at an April 29th show to raise money for Longley's family. "It's been very hard on us, needless to say," Russell said from the stage of Los Angeles' Key Club. "If this has taught me anything, it's taught me how fragile life is. We're going on a benefit tour this summer to help families of this tragedy, and this is just the beginning of the help that these people are going to get from Great White."
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