Ghost Ship warehouse founder receives nine years in prison in fire that killed 36

The founder of a California artist store that burned in a massive fire that killed 36 people five years ago was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison and three years of post-supervisory release, authorities said.

Alameda District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in a statement that Derick Almena, the main tenant of the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, California, can serve the remainder of his prison sentence at his home with a monitor. GPS.

In a statement read in court by Almena’s attorney, Tony Serra, Almena apologized for his role in the December 2, 2016 fire and said, “I am very afraid to say more,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported. “I am sick of shame. Very sorry. My shame cannot serve as a defense against what I am responsible for. “

Almena pleaded guilty to 36 counts of manslaughter in January, more than two years after a jury stalled on the charges in an earlier trial. The same jury acquitted a co-defendant, Max Harris, who had also faced charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Almena and Harris had agreed to an earlier plea deal and were scheduled to be sentenced to nine and six years, respectively, when Judge James Cramer rejected the deal, saying that Almena had not accepted “full responsibility and remorse” for the fire.

Almena rented the warehouse in 2013 to build theatrical sets, but prosecutors said it began subletting sections to other artists. Harris allegedly helped turn the building into a living room, host massive parties, and collect the rent.

They turned the warehouse into a “death trap” filled with flammable objects, blocked exits and no fire alarms or sprinklers, prosecutors said.

A defense attorney for Almena had argued that a society that allows the kind of extreme wealth and poverty that coexist in the San Francisco Bay Area was to blame for the fire.

“People like Derek take a warehouse and pull people out of the gutter and put a roof over their heads and they don’t have the money to furnish it according to Oakland law,” said attorney Brian Getz. “And that’s why this happened.”

Last year, the city of Oakland agreed to pay more than $ 32 million to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of the fire victims, including $ 23.5 million for the families of those who died and $ 9.2 million for a survivor who suffered serious injuries. .

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