CHICAGO — In a reversal of an appellate court's decision, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday that two nightclub owners violated orders not to occupy the second floor of a building where 21 people were trampled to death in 2003.
Security guards released pepper spray into a crowd to break up a fight on the dance floor of nightclub E2, 2347 S. Michigan Ave. on Feb. 17, 2003. In the panic that ensued as patrons tried to escape, 21 people were trampled and another 50 injured.
E2 owners Calvin Hollins Jr., and Dwain Kyles were charged with indirect criminal contempt for violating a building court's 2002 orders to leave the second floor of the building unoccupied.
In a jury trial, Hollins and Kyles argued the ruling was unclear, and that they believed only certain sections of the second floor, like a mezzanine and VIP area, were not to be used, according to a summary of the ruling.
Hollins and Kyles were initially found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison.
Hollins and Kyles appealed, arguing that the court made several errors during the trial. The appellate court did not address the alleged trial errors but ruled that Hollins and Kyles were not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a unanimous ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the decision that threw out the charges against Hollins and Kyles, and sent the case back to the appellate court to consider the alleged trail errors.
In his summary of the ruling, Justice Lloyd Karameier said the appellate court "erred" when reversing the decision, and said "a rational jury could have found that they were fully aware of what the building court’s orders prohibited and willfully disobeyed the orders."