Ghost Ship defendants negotiating plea agreement

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Both men charged in the fatal Ghost Ship fire are negotiating plea deals as part of a plan laid forth by Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson on Friday.

Attorney Tony Serra, representing Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena, said Friday morning that his client had been offered an 8-year plea agreement to plead no contest to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. He said his client could potentially get out of prison in less than three years.

As court was dismissed Friday afternoon Serra said he could no longer discuss details of any plea agreement under order of the judge. Almena's wife told ABC7 news that the situation was still fluid and not a done deal yet.

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The other defendant in the case, Max Harris, was also in court Friday. His attorneys have been negotiating with prosecutors and the judge on his plea agreement. His attorneys would not comment on details.

The plea deal is contingent on both defendants agreeing to plead no contest.

The judge ordered both defendants back to court at 2 p.m. on July 3 when more specifics about the plea agreements may be released. The trial for the deadly Ghost Ship fire is set to begin on July 16. If plea agreements are not finalized it could last for months with more than 70 witnesses expected to be called to testify.

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Kenzie Smith, who lost his best friend Alex Ghassen in the fire, said the plea deal is not justice. Smith hopes the case will go to trial.

But attorney Mary Alexander, who represents 12 of the victims' families in a civil lawsuit, said they would be pleased with a plea agreement so both defendants spend time behind bars and are held criminally responsible for the fire.

Thirty-six people perished in the Ghost Ship fire in December 2016 at an Oakland warehouse that was converted to a living space and concert venue.

Click here for full coverage on the investigation into Oakland's deadly Ghost Ship Fire.
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