The New York Daily News reports…
“The Brooklyn pastor arrested in connection with a 2014 fatal fire in an apartment building he owned knew the building was a cramped death trap, prosecutors said Thursday.
But the pastor’s supporters said his tenants were the ones who turned the building into a dangerous, illegal single-room occupancy setup by subletting their rooms, and he was powerless to evict them.
Luckner Lorient, 78, was arraigned Thursday on manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and other charges, accused of cramming 23 tenants into the second- and third-floor apartments over his storefront Flatbush church.
An overloaded electrical circuit caused a water cooler to catch fire on the second floor on Nov. 19, 2014, sparking a blaze that sent smoke and flames through the building as 20 of his tenants slept.
Many suffered smoke inhalation, three were seriously burned, and one tenant, Jeff Frederic, lost his life.
Lorient defied multiple building violation and vacate orders, and authorities “explained to the defendant why he could not subdivide the building and why it was dangerous,” said Assistant District Attorney Samantha Magnani.
She said authorities did walkthroughs with Lorient in 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2006 showing him the violations, and Lorient knew about the conditions inside because he personally collected rent each month.
Lorient, the longtime pastor of Eglise Baptist Clarte Celeste, was honored by the New York State Senate in 2013.
Luc Pierre, president of the Haitian Clergy Association, said he felt Lorient was being treated unfairly.
“He was trying to evict those people for so many years, and he was very unsuccessful because of the landlord and tenant court which was ruling, over and over again, in favor of those tenants,” Pierre said.
Lorient was ordered held on $1 million bail or $2 million bond.”