Ghost ship fire: California man pleads guilty to 36 counts manslaughter

Participants hold candles at a vigil by Oakland's Lake Merritt for victims of a fire at a warehouse known as The Ghost Ship in California on December 5, 2016. The man who rented the warehouse pleaded guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter Friday. File Photo by Khaled Sayed/UPI

Jan. 23 (UPI) — A California man pleaded guilty Friday to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for his role in the 2016 Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland.

Derik Almena entered the guilty plea as part of an agreement in which he’ll serve nine years to 12 years in prison.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson said Almena could remain free under electronic monitoring until his March 8 sentencing hearing.

Thompson declared a mistrial for Almena in September 2019 after a jury was unable to agree on a verdict. They acquitted co-defendant Max Harris on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Almena, 50, rented the Ghost Ship warehouse, which he then sublet to artists.

Prosecutors accused Harris of helping Almena convert the warehouse into living spaces and holding large parties. They said Almena negligently failed to install smoke alarms and other safety devices inside the warehouse, and declined to obtain inspections.

The Dec. 2, 2016, fire broke out during a concert on the second floor of the warehouse. Most of the victims were unable to evacuate the building via a makeshift staircase, which prosecutors called an “inadequate means of escape.” Thirty-six people died in the blaze.

The Marin Independent Journal reported it’s unlikely Almena will return to prison because of time already served and credit he received for good behavior while in custody. The newspaper said he’s expected to serve another three years probation and wear his monitoring device another year and a half.


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