Judge throws out plea deal for Ghost Ship defendants at sentencing hearing

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- What was supposed to be a sentencing for Ghost Ship defendants Derick Almena and Max Harris just never materialized. In a surprising twist, Alameda County Judge James Cramer threw out the plea deal.

Families were happy with the judge's decision to reject the plea deal after taking their comments and the defendants' into consideration.

Alameda County Judge James Cramer heard from Almena and Harris as they expressed sorrow over what happened on December 2, 2016 -- speaking face to face with victims' families.

Thirty-six lives were lost in that massive blaze.

Families thought Harris expressed a lot of remorse in his comments but didn't think Almena accepted full responsibility for his role in the events that led to the inferno.

VIDEO: Attorneys, victim's father speak about Ghost Ship fire plea deal

"Definitely Almena is not remorseful," said Ivania Chavarria, a victim's mom.

And the judge agreed.

Cramer was OK with the plea agreement for Harris -- not for Almena. But since this was a package deal, he had to accept it for both or neither.

Almena's defense attorney, Tony Serra, doesn't think his client will receive a fair trial given the amount of media attention this case has received.

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"You see the victims' families are very adamant and I empathize with their perspective, even though I think it's a little bit irrational but they want 36 years," Serra said, referring to a year in jail for each of the 36 victims killed.

What happens next is still unclear. They can go to trial or resubmit a new plea deal.

Legal counsel is expected to meet with the judge next Friday to decide how to move forward.

For for full coverage on the investigation into Oakland's deadly Ghost Ship Fire, visit this page.

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