OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — David Gregory just had to be in court Thursday where Derick Almena – the man charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deadly Ghost Ship Warehouse fire – had made his first appearance before the judge.
“I just wanted to see his face,” said Gregory. “I wanted to see his expression. I wanted to see if he had any remorse.”
Gregory’s daughter — 20-year-old Michela Gregory — was found hugging her boyfriend — an act of love in their final moments before they fell victim to the deadly smoke inside the rundown warehouse where they had gone to hear a music concert.
When asked if he could see any remorse on Almena’s face, Gregory replied, “Not from where I was standing, no.”
Almena appeared in the Alameda County Superior courtroom dressed in an orange jumpsuit for only about two minutes. He did not speak in court. Cameras weren’t allowed in the courtroom.
He did not enter a plea to the charges and was ordered to return to court on June 15th. Meanwhile, the other defendant in the case, Max Harris, was in the process of being returned to the Bay Area after his arrest earlier this week in Los Angeles.
Both men remain jailed on bail of nearly $1.1 million.
While prosecutors refused to make any statements outside the courtroom, Almena’s attorney, Jeffery Krasnoff, called the fire a profound tragedy and told reporters the focus of the case should be Oakland and how the city enforces its building codes.
“This case is one of the more profound tragedies to strike the Bay Area in living memory,” Krasnoff said. “Despite the strong emotions, we do not feel the public good will be served by prosecuting our client. This creates a distraction so that the local government doesn’t have to address the fundamental issues of housing inequality and fire safety that will continue to be a problem in this community. They have not addressed their failings.”
Almena was arrested in nearby Lake County on Monday and charged with creating a deadly firetrap at the warehouse he rented and converted into a party space and housing for financially struggling artists.
Harris was arrested in Los Angeles County on Monday but will be transferred to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin before the end of the day Thursday, Alameda County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said.
It’s expected that Harris will be arraigned on Friday, Kelly said.
Almena will be back in court next week with Harris for a joint appearance.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley charged Almena with cluttering the space with highly flammable material and failing to provide adequate fire safety systems to tenants and visitors.
The Dec. 2 fire at the warehouse killed 36 people attending an electronic music concert on the second floor of the old warehouse in Oakland. Investigators say the maze-like interior had only one exit that night that was difficult to find when the lights went out.