Ghost Ship Leaders Plead Not Guilty

The two men were charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Charred windows and walls of the “Ghost Ship” warehouse in Oakland are seen Dec. 4, two days after a fire claimed the lives of 36 people (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

The two men linked to Ghost Ship before the deadly Dec. 2 fire maintained their innocence Wednesday with a “not guilty” plea.

Warehouse master tenant Derick Almena, 47, and creative director Max Harris, 27 were charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in June, Bay City News reports. Many victims of the fire were artists, and two were a young, longtime couple.

The preliminary trial in Alameda Superior Court begins Nov. 13 and will determine if there’s enough evidence for a trial.

Judge Yolanda Northridge denied a motion to dismiss the charges for Harris before the two pleaded not guilty. One of Harris’ attorneys argued that the grounds weren’t specific enough about his client’s role in the fire.

The case was filed as a criminal complaint and not a grand jury indictment that needs more specifics, like a time and place. Northridge denied a similar motion for Almena a couple weeks ago.

Almena and Harris, who haven’t paid the $750,000 bail, are still in custody.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley called their actions “reckless” and says they created the environment that put lives at high risk.

 

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