Judge Rejects Plea Deal in Ghost Ship Case, Will Go to Trial

Oakland fire warehouse (Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty)
Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty
ADELLE NAZARIAN

The judge overseeing the sentencing for the two men charged with the deaths of 36 people in the infamous Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland in December 2016 tossed their plea deal on Friday, leaving the men to face trial and potential life sentences instead of the six and nine year sentences they had initially been given.

Derick Almena, 48, who started the artistic collective, and Max Harris, 28, the collective’s artistic director, were sentenced to nine and six years in prison respectively in July. However that all changed on Friday, when Alameda County Judge James Cramer said Almena didn’t accept “full responsibility and remorse” for the fatal blaze.

The East Bay Times reported that Almena had been forewarned, in an email nearly two years before the deadly blaze occurred by the son of the warehouse’s owner, that electrical problems could result in a conflagration. An unstable, wooden staircase was the sole way out of the warehouse.

Both men could have been released from court after serving just half of their sentences, as is standard practice for California inmates on good behavior. However, the families of the victims slammed the proposed sentences as being too lenient.

“I’m guilty for believing we were safe,” Almena reportedly told the families of the victims who were present in court Friday. “I should have died that night. It would have been an honor saving your children’s souls.” He said he should have died along with the victims the night of the fire.

Almena, his wife, and his three children also lived in the warehouse. However, the night of the party and blaze, the family decided to stay in a nearby hotel.

According to San Francisco ABC station KGO, “Cramer was OK with the plea agreement for Harris — not for Almena. But since this was a package deal, he had to accept it for both or neither.”

Ivania Chavarria, the mother of one of the victims of the blaze, told KGO, “Definitely Almena is not remorseful.”

Harris reportedly said, “I know nothing I can say will come close. I’m sorry. You’re in my prayers and will be for the rest of my life.”
Adelle Nazarian is a politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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