OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Derick Almena, the main tenant of a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse that caught fire during a music event and killed 36 people, was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison, though that is short. more time will likely pass. in jail.
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Already under house arrest after being released from jail last year due to coronavirus concerns, Almena was ordered to serve the remainder of his term under electronic monitoring, followed by three years of probation.
“I know that no family member will find this acceptable in any way, and I accept that responsibility,” said Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson, concluding an emotionally charged case that was first derailed by a jury. hanged and then by the pandemic. .
Many of the relatives had urged Thompson to reject a plea deal that Almena had reached with prosecutors to avoid a second trial, calling it too lenient.
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Almena, 50, pleaded guilty in January to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a 12-year sentence.
Because he received credit for the time he already spent behind bars while awaiting trial and for his good behavior, he will spend the next year and a half at home with an ankle monitor. He was also ordered to pay restitution to be determined by the court at a later date.
“This lenient and slapping sentence is grossly inappropriate for the crimes committed by Derick Almena,” the family of the fire victim, Sarah Hoda, said in a statement read to the court by teleconference. “Maintaining the district attorney’s irresponsible plea recommendation would harm 36 victims and their families.”
Thompson and prosecutors said they took into consideration the challenges of trying the case again, given the challenges of selecting jurors during a pandemic, calling witnesses to court due to travel bans and the publicity the first trial received.
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Prosecutors said Almena was criminally negligent when he illegally converted the industrial warehouse in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood into a residence and event space for artists, dubbed the “Ghost Ship,” by filling the building with flammable materials and extension cords. It had no smoke detectors or sprinklers.
On December 2, 2016, hell broke out in the warehouse during an electronic music event, trapping the victims on the illegally constructed second floor. Prosecutors said the victims received no warning and had little chance of escaping down a narrow, rickety staircase.
Family and friends of the victims filled Thompson’s courtroom for months in 2019, becoming familiar faces to the judge, only to see a jury divided on whether to convict Almena, who rented the building. At the same trial, the jury also found co-defendant Max Harris, who was the “creative director” and rental collector for Ghost Ship, not guilty.