Joseph Graffagnino in his Brooklyn home. His son, Joseph Graffagnino,...

Joseph Graffagnino in his Brooklyn home. His son, Joseph Graffagnino, 33, was killed while battling a seven-alarm high-rise fire at the Former Deutsche Bank building in lower Manhattan in August 2007. (April 1, 2011) Credit: Craig Ruttle

When the manslaughter trial stemming from the fatal 2007 fire at the Deutsche Bank building near Ground Zero began Monday, Joseph A. Graffagnino wasn't there.

Graffagnino's firefighter son, Joseph P. Graffagnino, 33, a married father of two, died in the blaze, along with FDNY partner Robert Beddia, 55. But Graffagnino is boycotting the Manhattan Supreme Court trial because the parties he considers most culpable in his son's death - including New York City itself - are not on trial.

"The DA is taking the easy way out, and not taking on the people we feel are responsible," said Graffagnino in an interview. "After 40 months, this is all you can come up with? There's a lot of questions left unanswered."

The trial is targeting three on-site managers and a corporate subcontractor for allegedly creating unsafe conditions during demolition of the Deutsche Bank building by severing a stand pipe that deprived firefighters of water.

The city, which failed to conduct required inspections, and general contractor Bovis Lend Lease, whose employees were responsible for site safety, have acknowledged that their failures played a role in the deaths.

But Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau did not indict them in 2008. He said the city and its agents were protected by sovereign immunity and negotiated agreements under which the city agreed to adopt safety measures and Bovis set up a $10 million memorial fund for the firemen's families.

Graffagnino doesn't give the defendants a pass. "What they did, they did," he said.

But in his view, the finger of blame ultimately points to City Hall, to Bovis, and other powerful players. And he believes money and power - rather than the facts - have determined who's on trial.

"They got the lower echelon people," he said. "But what happened to everyone else?"

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