Derick Almena Max Harris

Photo: [Ghost Ship defendants] Max Harris, left, and Derick Almena at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, California in 2017. Photograph: AP

By Tim Balk, New York Daily News | The man who controlled a rickety warehouse in Oakland, Calif., where 36 people died in a devastating 2016 dance party inferno pleaded guilty on Friday to 36 counts of involuntarily manslaughter.

Derick Almena, 50, was charged after the blaze broke out on Dec. 2, 2016, at the concert venue called Ghost Ship, a wood-filled warehouse that burned down like a tinder box. Charges were filed in June 2017.

Bay Area News Group reported that Almena reached a plea deal and is expected to be sentenced to 12 years, but that credit for good behavior makes it unlikely that he will return to jail after he was released in May over COVID-19 concerns. Monitoring and supervised probation are more likely, according to the news outlet.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment to the Daily News, citing a gag order issued by Judge Trina Thompson.

Almena acted as the leaseholder of Ghost Ship. In 2019, Max Harris, who was creative director at the 10,000-square-foot venue, was found not guilty of 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The underground concert venue lacked fire alarms and sprinklers.

In July, the Oakland City Council authorized a payment of more than $32 million to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of victims of the blaze.


[Thank you to Alex Teitz, http://www.femmusic.com, for contributing this article.]


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