It's been nearly a decade since a deadly stampede at the E2 nightclub killed 21 people, and the city of Chicago refuses to let the case rest.
In November 2011, an appellate court canceled the convictions and jail sentences for the former owners. A 2009 jury found both men guilty of violating a city Housing Court order to close the mezzanine level of their club's second floor, issued prior to the stampede.
The judge in the 2011 ruling argued the housing court order was ambiguous as it didn’t specify whether the club’s VIP mezzanine should have been closed, or if the order meant the second-floor club shouldn’t have been operating at all. According to a 2011 Sun-Times report, Justice Michael J. Murphy wrote his opinion:
“At first blush the language appears clear, however, a review of the record before this court reveals the city’s law clerk should have included three words following ‘Mandatory order not to occupy 2nd floor’ in the formal order — either ‘of the building’ or ‘of the nightclub.'"
Wednesday, Sound Opinions Co-Host, Columbia College journalism professor and WBEZ blogger Jim DeRogatis said on WBEZ the city's case will hinge on those three words.
DeRogatis went on to note the second-floor club above the Epitome Restaurant near 23rd Street and Michigan Avenue had "scores of liquor violations, building code violations and neighborhood violations on the books."
According to the Sun-Times, the appellate court didn't believe the club's violations and the stampede--which ignited when a security guard unleashed pepper spray on the crowded club—was clearly linked.
The city is also concerned the appellate court’s decision “creates a serious risk that all building owners will ignore complying with building court orders or interpret the orders as they see fit,” according to a statement by the city's law department.
Both men say they became the city's scapegoats for the "botched rescue effort," according to the Tribune. In a 2012 interview with Time Out Chicago, Hollins voiced his frustration with the city's position.
“I’m angry,” Hollins said in TOC. “The city’s case was ludicrous. They had to pin this on someone because they fucked up.”
While attorneys for both sides already argued the case in Springfield, a decision could be months away.