Charges Dropped Against E2 Nightclub Owner

Dwain Kyles is cleared of responsibility in deaths of 21 nightclub patrons

The co-owner of a Chicago nightclub where 21 people died in a stampede in 2003 was acquitted of criminal charges on Wednesday.

Prosecutors formally dropped involuntary manslaughter charges against E2 nightclub co-owner Dwain Kyles.

The E2 tragedy rocked the city in February 2003. 

Investigators said that the use of pepper spray by a security guard in the upstairs night club sparked the deadly stampede.  Some 1,500 people attempted to exit the club down a single stairway in which the doors at the bottom opened in. 

As frightened fleeing patrons pushed their way down the stairs, some were crushed, unable to breathe.  As more patrons tried to exit, they were forced on top of the bodies of those who had already fallen.

In all, 21 people were killed and an additional 30 were hospitalized.

The decision to drop charges against Kyles follows last year's acquittal by a Cook County judge of three other men also charged with involuntary manslaughter. 

Kyles' co-owner, Calvin Hollins Jr., was cleared of any criminal involvement in the tragedy. Hollins and his son filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the city for wrongful prosecution in February 2008. They said it was the city's botched response that night that caused the deaths of the people.

Kyles is a Georgetown University-trained lawyer, lifelong friend of the Jackson family and son of a renowned pastor from the civil rights movement. His father, Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles, is the man Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was going to visit on the evening he was assassinated in 1968.

Hollins, 52, came from a more modest background, working in a West Side laundry as a young man. A Cook County sheriff's deputy in the 1970s, Hollins went on to co-own and manage a number of restaurants and bars, including Dingbat's on the Near North Side.

Wednesday's dismissal follows an appellate court's upholding of the same judge's ruling not to allow prosecutors to introduce a Housing Court order as evidence at Kyles' trial.

The order was issued before the stampede and required E2 to close because of code violations. The judge, however, said it was vague.

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