SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – In the wake of an Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36 partygoers, famed defense attorney Tony Serra has agreed to represent Derick Almena, the leader of the Ghost Ship artist cooperative.

Serra’s office confirmed to KPIX 5 on Friday that he was now Almena’s attorney.

No charges have been filed against Almena, but the fire at the warehouse that housed the Ghost Ship coop remains the focus of an intense investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

District Attorney Nancy O’Malley has said manslaughter or murder charges are possible at the end of the investigation.

Continuing Coverage: Deadly Oakland Warehouse Fire

Serra may be one of the most famous and colorful defense attorneys in the Bay Area.

The 81-year-old has represented Huey Newton, Sarah Jane Olson and most recently convicted Chinatown gang killer Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow.

Meanwhile, Almena has been criticized for a Facebook posting immediately after the fire and also for his management of the cooperative and the warehouse.

The Dec. 2 fire killed 36 partygoers who were attending a music event in the Oakland warehouse Almena managed. It was the nation’s largest music venue disaster since 100 people died in the 2003 fire at the Station nightclub in Rhode Island.

The facility was not equipped with sprinklers, had not been permitted as a music event site and was also not permitted to allow artists to live in the building.

Authorities have said the makeshift construction of artist live/work spaces in the first floor of the building made it nearly impossible for firefighters to battle the fire and for partygoers to escape.

Jill Snyder, the special agent in charge of the San Francisco office for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said her agency has concluded that the partygoers who died were not aware of a fire until it was likely too late to escape.


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