OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The families of Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire victims on Wednesday said they were upset to learn that Derick Almena, the remaining defendant in the case, is considering taking a plea deal.
The deadly fire broke out late on the night of Dec. 2, 2016, at the warehouse in the 1300 block of 31st Avenue in the City’s Fruitvale District. 36 people died in the blaze.
Derick Almena, the warehouse’s master leaseholder, and Max Harris were tried in a criminal case on charges of involuntary manslaughter. Harris was acquitted. The jury couldn’t reach a decision in Almena’s case.
Family members of victims say they were told about the deal Wednesday morning by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office during a Zoom conference.
“I had a heavy, sinking feeling this is as close to justice as we’re going to get, and that’s not very close at all,” said Colleen Dolan, whose daughter Chelsea Faith Dolan died in the fire.
It appears Almena won’t be serving any more jailtime.
“For the families, it is a crushing blow there will be no trial and that Almena is not being held accountable,” said Attorney Mary Alexander, who is representing 13 of the victims’ families in civil cases against the City of Oakland and owners of the warehouse.
A second trial for Almena, the master tenant, was scheduled for last year, but got delayed in part due to the pandemic.
Alemna served nearly 3 years in Santa Rita jail but was released in May 2020, when authorities released non-violent offenders after a COVID outbreak within the facility.
The Oakland City Council last November approved a settlement giving a total of $399,000 to 12 people who were once residents of the Ghost Ship warehouse before it burned down killing 36 people in December 2016, according to council records.
That settlement comes following the approval in July of $32.7 million, which was given to one victim who survived and some of the families of the victims who died.
In 2018, Almena accepted a plea deal including 9 years prison-time. But that deal later fell apart when the judge felt Almena did not show remorse for his role in the fire.
A gag order in the case is prohibiting prosecutors to discuss details.