VIDEO: Max Harris arraigned on charges for deadly Ghost Ship fire

Max Harris

OAKLAND (KRON) — Max Harris was arraigned Monday on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the Ghost Ship warehouse fire that killed 36 people at the warehouse in Oakland’s Fruitvale district last December.

Harris, 27, who didn’t say anything at his brief appearance at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland, is scheduled to return to court on Thursday, when he and co-defendant Derick Almena, 47, the warehouse’s master tenant, will have a plea hearing.

Harris and Almena, who were arrested June 5 at separate locations, are both being held at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in lieu of $1.08 million bail. One of Almena’s three lawyers said last week that he will file a motion soon to seek to have Almena’s bail reduced.

About a dozen family members of the fire victims attended Almena’s arraignment Thursday but none came to Harris’ arraignment, which was attended by several of Harris’ family members and friends.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said last week that she filed the involuntary manslaughter charges against Almena and Harris, which could result in 39-year state prison terms if they’re convicted, because their actions were “reckless” and created a high risk of death for the large group of people who attended a dance music party on the second floor of the warehouse at 1309 31st Ave. on Dec. 2.

Harris’ lawyer, a deputy public defender, didn’t comment on the case Monday.

Tony Serra, Almena’s lead defense attorney, said at a news conference on Friday that he believes that prosecutors are making Almena and Harris “scapegoats” for the fire and he believes the parties that were most responsible for the blaze were Oakland fire and police officials who he said failed to crack down on safety issues at the
warehouse.

Serra also blamed PG&E for causing electrical problems there.

Serra said Almena might be liable in civil court for the unsafe conditions at the warehouse but said Almena isn’t criminally liable because he thinks the prosecution won’t be able to prove that Almena understood the peril that existed there and failed to do anything about it.

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