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‘Ghost Ship’ prosecutors no longer accepting plea deals in case

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San Francisco fire officials, seen here inspecting a building damaged by fire last year, are inspecting a high number of warehouses after December’s “Ghost Ship” fire in Oakland. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

After an Alameda County Superior Court judge last week rejected a plea deal for the two defendants in the case of the deadly 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, prosecutors have told the two men’s attorneys they will no longer accept or entertain any more plea deals.

“I don’t expect there will ever be another deal offered to me and my client,” Tony Serra, an attorney for Derick Almena, said today.

“The DA has taken a hard position and said, ‘We’re not negotiating with either defendant any longer,’” Serra said.

Almena and co-defendant Max Harris are scheduled to appear at a hearing Friday, where Serra said he will ask for a change of venue if the case goes to trial, which he now expects will happen.

Almena was the Ghost Ship warehouse’s master tenant before the December 2016 fire that destroyed the warehouse-turned-artists’ space in the city’s Fruitvale neighborhood, killing 36 people inside who had come for a concert. Harris was the Ghost Ship’s creative director.

Almena and Harris had been expected to each plead no contest to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter at an Aug. 10 sentencing hearing. Under the deal, Almena would have been sentenced to nine years in jail, and Harris to six years.

But Judge James Cramer said at the Aug. 10 hearing that he didn’t feel Almena had expressed sufficient remorse for what had happened at the warehouse. Cramer said the plea deal was for both men, and that rejecting it for one of them would be rejecting it for the other, too.

Serra said today he hopes Cramer will opt to call for an “open plea” from the defendants that prosecutors would not have to approve.

As for that change of venue request, Serra said, “I don’t know where we will get a fair trial.

“I expect many things to be ironed out in judge’s chambers [Friday]” Serra added.

Attorneys for Harris were not immediately available to comment.

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