Oakland Ghost Ship fire defendants reach plea deal, will avoid trial

05 July, 2018, 18:57 | Author: Myra Gill
  • These are the two men charged criminally in the Ghost Ship fire that killed 36. Founder Derick Almena

The fire destroyed the 10,000-square-foot (900-square-meter) Ghost Ship warehouse during an illegal dance party on December 2, 2016. Both would serve their time in an Alameda County jail instead of state prison. Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Autrey James says the men, "acted negligently in running that building known as the Ghost Ship". Almena agreed to a nine year sentence and Harris has agreed to a six year sentence.

Sami Kopelman, the mother of one victim, 34-year-old Edmond Lapine, isn't pleased with the plea deal.

The two men also face civil litigation. "While the deputy district attorney for Alameda County, David Lim, wrote to families that the plea deal "spares the families from having to re-live the tragedy of December 2", some victims" relatives expressed frustration with the deal.

"This would include making public disturbing photos of the victims".

The pleas by Derick Almena, 48, and Max Harris, 28, would avoid a jury trial, which was slated for July 16. "And they were willing to do that, but now they won't have two trials", she said.

The Ghost Ship fire - which took place during a 100% Silk label showcase and claimed the lives of performers Cherushii, Nackt, Cash Askew, Obsidian Blade and Visual Aids - became one deadliest blazes in the city's history.

Both men, who were arrested in June 2017, will get credit for the year they have already spent in jail. On the night of the party, the men blocked one of the two exterior doors.


Nearly all of the victims of the blaze died of smoke inhalation. Almena and Harris are expected to make their pleas today, with sentencing likely occurring several months from now.

'You knew you had a faulty warehouse.

Almena illegally sublet the Ghost Ship warehouse to up to 25 tenants, despite a lease indicating the space was strictly for commercial use.

He also held for-profit concerts at the warehouse, which was not licensed for entertainment. The building itself also hadn't been officially inspected by the fire department since 1930. Witnesses had long described the Ghost Ship as a "death trap", as the space lacked sprinklers and working smoke detectors.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm investigators said they were unable to determine a cause of the blaze.

"'On the other hand, there were 36 victims", Weisberg said about the warehouse fire.

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