SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A Puerto Rican District Court judge dropped murder charges against a former Teamsters union leader Wednesday for the 1986 Dupont Plaza Hotel arson that killed 97 people.
At the end of a four-week hearing, Judge Hector Brull Cestero ruled there was no probable cause to try Manuel Santiago Rios, former vice president of Teamsters Local 901, on 97 murder counts and charges of arson, conspiracy and sowing destruction.
Brull Cestero, however, let stand a perjury charge against Santiago Rios.
The judge upheld 97 counts of murder and charges of arson, and sowing destruction against Teamsters union members Luis M. Muniz Marquez and Luis Vega Rios.
A trial was set for Aug. 8.
The Dupont Plaza fire -- set by hotel employees on New Year's Eve 1986 -- killed 97 people and followed bitter negotiations on a new contract between Teamsters hotel workers and the management, and the workers' rejection of a management proposal.
On June 22, 1987, a San Juan federal judge sentenced three former hotel employees to up to 99 years in prison for the fire.
Hector Escudero Aponte, 35, who confessed to setting the blaze, received two concurrent 99-year terms, including one for murder in the death of a Secret Service Agent in the hotel at the time.
Francisco Rivera Lopez, 40, who pleaded guilty to inciting Escudero Aponte to set the fire, was given 99 years, and Armando Jimenez Rivera, 29, who provided cooking fuel used to set the fire, was sentenced to 75 years.