A Philadelphia grand jury has decided not to bring criminal charges against the Hasidic owners of an abandoned factory that burned down in Philadelphia in April 2012, causing the deaths of two firefighters.
District Attorney Seth Williams announced that an investigation failed to produce sufficient evidence of guilt against Michael and Nahman Lichtenstein, members of a prominent Brooklyn-based family that also owns the popular Haredi newspaper Hamodia.
“We’re all frustrated, we wish there was something that we can do to give the firefighters and the Neary family and the Sweeney family closure,” Williams was quoted saying in the Philadelphia City Paper.
Nahman and Michael Lichtenstein reportedly own about 30 other properties throughout Philadelphia, many of them vacant.
Though vindicating them of guilt, the grand jury’s report was reportedly critical of the two owners, whose negligence allegedly turned the vacant structure into “a firetrap.”
The report further criticized the Department of Licenses and Inspections and other government agencies for failing to hold the Lichtensteins accountable for safety issues in the lead-up to the fire.
“Licenses and Inspections…needs to have a thorough and complete review, from top to bottom,” Williams said according to the City Paper.
The investigation ultimately failed to produce an exact cause or source of the blaze.
“We can’t just charge people because we have a bad taste in our mouths or we’re angry,” Philly.com quoted Williams saying. “We are bound by the law.”
This story "Hasidic Owners Cleared in 2012 Philadelphia Factory Blaze That Killed 2 Firefighters" was written by Michael Kaplan.