Ghost Ship Trial: Investigator says no sign of arson

ByJobina Fortson KGO logo
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Ghost Ship Trial: Investigator says no sign of arson
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A former Oakland Fire Department official said that investigators didn't find any evidence that Molotov cocktails or other explosives were thrown into the Ghost Ship warehouse at the time of a fire that killed 36 people in 2016.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- There are disputes surrounding permits for the now-destroyed Ghost Ship warehouse.

An engineer with the city of Oakland took the stand during the trial on Tuesday.

David Harlan with the Oakland Planning and Building Department testified that the Ghost Ship warehouse was last inspected in 1951, after a permit was issued for the property three years earlier.

Harlan told the defense that building codes require anyone doing work on the property to get a permit. No one doubts there was construction done by the founders of Ghost Ship.

MORE: Heartbreaking last texts from Ghost Ship fire victims

"Max Harris, my client, came along a year and a half later," said defense attorney Curtis Briggs. "He certainly didn't need to pull any permits. He didn't need to make any repairs or upgrades, but also the owners would be responsible if they split that into seven rentable spaces. They would definitely have had to pull permits and they didn't and they need to be on trial here if Max Harris is on trial... for sure."

Next on the stand was fire and arson investigator Maria Sabatini. She spent nearly 30 years with the Oakland Fire Department and testified that she'd been to the Ghost Ship twice - once in September of 2014 to investigate and arson and again in December of 2016.

While on the stand, Sabatini described the scene of the fire and the 29 bodies found the first floor. She ended her questioning with prosecutors claiming her team found no evidence of arson at the origin of the fire.

RELATED: Video shows firefighters responding to deadly Ghost Ship fire

"What I see now is a complete different person," attorney Tony Serra said. "She's doing everything possible to negate the prospect that this fire was caused by arson."

Andrew Stein is a new face in the courtroom. He's leading the defense's cross examination of Sabatini. He thinks fire fighters didn't know what they were looking for on the scene. He said his keys words in court Wednesday will be "sifting and grids."

"What you do is take where the fire started and you take each bucket and put it in a grid," Stein said. "Numerically, where it came from and you sift through each bucket. Not firefighters. Investigators."

RELATED: Witness describes what it was like inside Ghost Ship warehouse

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