The master tenant of the Oakland warehouse space Ghost Ship recently pleaded guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter over the tragic 2016 fire that resulted in the deaths of 36 people. On Monday, Derick Almena received a 12-year sentence but is not expected to spend more time in prison, the Associated Press reports.
Almena is currently under house arrest—he was released from jail last year due to coronavirus concerns. Since he received credit for time spent behind bars while awaiting trial and good behavior, he’s expected to spend one-and-a-half years at home in an ankle bracelet followed by three years of probation.
“I know that no family member will find this in any way acceptable, and I accept that responsibility,” Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson said. “I wish I could in the stroke of a pen take away your deep loss and your sadness.”
Thompson was urged by relatives of fire victimes to reject the plea deal. “This lenient, slap-on-the-wrist sentence is vastly inappropriate for the crimes Derick Almena committed,” the family of fire victim Sarah Hoda said in a statement read to the court via teleconference. “Upholding the DA’s irresponsible plea recommendation would shortchange 36 victims and their families.”
Less than a year after the Ghost Ship fire, Almena and fellow venue operator Max Harris were arrested in connection with the blaze. Almena and Harris initially pleaded not guilty to the charges. In July 2018, they agreed to a plea deal. In 2019, Max Harris was acquitted on all charges. Almena, meanwhile, faced a hung jury and retrial. His guilty plea and today’s sentencing mean he will not face a new trial.
Read “After Ghost Ship Fire, Oakland DIY Grapples With a Broken System” on the Pitch.