OAKLAND (CBS SF & AP) — The attorney for one of two suspects charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire pledged Friday to get his client out on bail before the trial begins.
Curtis Briggs, the attorney for defendant Max Harris, asked a judge Friday to reduce his client’s $1.08 million bail.
Although Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy denied the defense motion to release Harris, he did agree to reduce Harris’ bail from $1.08 million to $750,000.
The judge also said the lack of ties Harris has to the community with no family, job or home in Oakland increase his flight risk.
“Even $1 dollar bail is too much and mark my words we will get Max Harris out before trial,” Briggs said outside the courtroom. “Max Harris will not rot in jail while he fights his case. We will get him out, the community will support him, we’ll raise money if that what we have to do.”
Murphy said that if Harris raises enough money and is freed on bail he would have to wear an ankle monitor, remain in Alameda County and not apply for a passport.
The attorney also lashed out again at the district attorney for filing the charges.
“What happened today was unjust,” Briggs said. “Max Harris is innocent, Max Harris shouldn’t be incarcerated.”
Prosecutor Autrey James told reporters outside the courtroom that bail was necessary in this case.
“We are not here because Max Harris is a horrible person,” James told reporters according to the East Bay Times. “On December 2, 2016, a mistake was made that cost the lives of 36 people.”
Tyler Smith, another attorney who represents Harris, said during the hearing that Harris should be freed without bail because he has no prior criminal record, has the support of 31 Oakland community members who wrote character letters on his behalf and isn’t a flight risk.
Smith said the $1.08 million bail that originally was set “is just nonsensical” because the normal bail for involuntary manslaughter is only $30,000 and prosecutors merely multiplied that amount 36 times.
Smith said that even though there were 36 victims in the fire, there only was one alleged underlying offense so $1.08 million was too high a bail.
“He’s not happy about today. He’s not going to be able to afford it. We’re going to try to raise the bail,” said Smith.
The defense also said Harris actually guided people to safety.
Meanwhile, co-defendant Derick Almena’s bail remained at $1.08 million. Neither man has yet to enter a plea.
Briggs had argued that his client was not a flight risk or a danger to the public and should have been eligible to be released on his promise to appear at all hearings without having to post any money.
Harris, 27, and Derick Almena, 47, are each charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the Dec. 2 fire at a warehouse housing an artist collective. At the time of the fire, it was hosting an illegal music event.
Almena rented the warehouse and prosecutors say Harris helped him sublet living space in the building.
Alameda County district attorney Nancy O’Malley said the pair turned the warehouse into a “death trap” by illegally converting the building into an entertainment venue and housing for artists.
O’Malley argued that once the men rented living space to tenants, they were responsible for the installation of sprinklers and to ensure the building was safe.
Instead, O’Malley said the men cluttered the warehouse with flammable materials.