Close  
  • share this

Prison sentences expected for US warehouse fire that killed 36

/ 02:51 PM August 09, 2018

Derick Almena and Max Harris (left), who pleaded no contest to 36 charges of involuntary manslaughter, will face the family members of those who died in a fire at an illegally converted Northern California warehouse. A two-day sentencing hearing for Almena and Harris is scheduled to begin Thursday, August 9, 2018 in Oakland, California. Alameda County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File

OAKLAND, Calif. — Two men who pleaded no contest to 36 charges of involuntary manslaughter will face the families of those who died in a fire at an illegally converted Northern California warehouse as they are sentenced for the crimes.

A two-day sentencing hearing for Derick Almena and Max Harris is scheduled to begin Thursday in Oakland. Relatives of the victims are expected to testify about their losses on Thursday before a judge sentences the men on Friday.

ADVERTISEMENT

Prosecutors said Almena, 48, rented the warehouse he dubbed the Ghost Ship and illegally converted it into a residence and entertainment venue. Almena hired Harris, 28, to help collect rent and schedule concerts.

A quickly moving fire consumed the building on the night of December 2, 2016, during an electronic music performance.

FEATURED STORIES

Before accepting their pleas last month, the judge read the name of each victim aloud at an emotional hearing, bringing tears from loved ones in the Oakland courtroom.

Prosecutors said the two defendants turned the warehouse into a “death trap” by cluttering it with highly flammable knick-knacks and blocking the few exits in the poorly lit building.

The two men agreed to a plea bargain with the Alameda County district attorney’s office last month brokered by the judge presiding over the hearing. Almena agreed to a nine-year prison sentence and Harris agreed to a six-year term.

The men could have faced life in prison if convicted at a trial. Now, with good behavior, they are only expected to serve half their sentences after spending a year in jail.

David Gregory, whose 20-year-old daughter, Michela Gregory, was among the victims, said outside court last month that he was dissatisfied with the outcome of the criminal case.

“That’s 36 lives, you know,” he said. “We wanted fair justice, and we didn’t get it.”

This undated file photo provided by the City of Oakland shows inside the burned warehouse after the deadly fire that broke out on Dec. 2, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. Two men who pleaded no contest to 36 charges of involuntary manslaughter will face the family members of those who died in a fire at an illegally converted Northern California warehouse. A two-day sentencing hearing for Derick Almena and Max Harris is scheduled to begin Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Oakland. (City of Oakland via AP, File)

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said they were unable to determine a cause of the blaze.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gregory and other victims’ relatives allege in lawsuits that the Oakland Fire Department failed to inspect the warehouse annually as required. The lawsuit stated inspectors would have discovered the illegal conversions.

Alex Katz, a spokesman for the Oakland city attorney, declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

Warehouse owner Chor Ng, who has never been charged, did not return a phone message on Wednesday.

The lawsuits claim Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) failed to properly monitor, inspect and repair electrical equipment that provided power to the warehouse.

PG&E said in a statement that it cooperated with the investigation and that a review of its records found no electrical problems at the warehouse in the 10 years before the fire.   /kga

Read Next
LATEST STORIES
MOST READ
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Arson, Crime, Derick Almena, Fire, Ghost Ship, manslaughter, Max Harris, US
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.



© Copyright 1997-2019 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.