Arraignment for man charged in deadly Ghost Ship fire delayed

ALAMEDA COUNTY (KRON)– The arraignment for one of two men charged in the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire was pushed back until next Thursday.

Derick Almena, dressed in a red jail uniform and bearded, was set to be arraigned in Alameda County. He didn’t say anything during his brief appearance at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.

Almena was the operator of the warehouse when it went up in Flames last December.

A total of 36 people died in the fire.

Almena was charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

If he’s convicted, he faces up to 39 years in prison.

He’s expected to appear in court on June 15th.

About a dozen family members of the fire victims attended the hearing but left by a side door and didn’t speak to reporters.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Nixon kept Almena’s bail at $1.08 million and ordered him to return to court June 15 to possibly enter a plea and to have a hearing on a defense motion to reduce his bail.

However, Jeffrey Krasnoff, one of three attorneys representing Almena, said he will ask to have the hearing to be postponed for a month so Almena can appear in court with co-defendant Max Harris, described by prosecutors as the warehouse’s creative director, who also faces 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Harris was arrested in Los Angeles County on Monday and was transferred to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin at around 4:30 p.m., Alameda County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said.

Max Harris

It’s expected that Harris will be arraigned on Friday, Kelly said.

District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said on Monday that after a six-month investigation she filed charges against Almena, who was arrested in Lake County on Monday, and Harris because their actions were “reckless” and created a high risk of death for the large group of people who attended a dance party on the second floor of the warehouse at 1315 31st Ave. on Dec. 2.

O’Malley said the two men “knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape, filled it with human beings, and are now facing the consequences of their deadly actions.”

Prosecutors said that because the building was largely consumed in the fire, the exact cause is classified as undetermined and probably will remain that way.

Krasnoff said outside of court Thursday that the filing of criminal charges against Almena and Harris is “a distraction” from holding government agencies responsible for failing to address housing inequality and fire safety, which he said are the real issues that caused the deadly blaze.

Klaznoff and fellow attorneys Tony Serra and Kyndra Miller will hold a news conference on Friday to discuss legal theories that they believe indicate that Almena is innocent.

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