In December of 2016, a fire at the DIY warehouse venue in Oakland, California known as “Ghost Ship” killed 36 people, making it the deadliest building fire in the U.S. in over a decade. The venue’s founder, Derick Almena, was blamed for multiple code violations in the building, including a lack of fire extinguishers and a stack of wooden pallets used as a staircase, and he was later charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter along with Ghost Ship’s “creative director” Max Harris. Both Almena and Harris are now expected to plead no contest, with the East Bay Times reporting that they’ll both be serving sentences lower than 10 years.
Almena has reportedly agreed to a nine-year term and Harris has agreed to six years, with their pleas allowing them to avoid a jury trial later this month and to serve out their sentences at a county jail instead of a state prison. Several of the victims’ families have criticized the decision to offer the two men plea deals, suggesting that the prosecutors simply wanted to “get this one out of the way.” One parent said that they would’ve preferred to see each man serve 36 years in prison, one for each person who died, saying that they don’t want “the value of their lives to be lessened by a sweep aside.”
Sentencing for Almena and Harris will happen in “several months.”