Attorney Mary Alexander says the families were very pleased with the judge's decision. Regarding Almena, she says he continues to speak about himself instead of expressing remorse.
Derick Almena tells ABC7 News he feels conflicted and confused.
"To truly be sorry and truly be apologetic I feel I also have to offer up somewhat of an explanation," said Almena over a video hookup from Santa Rita Jail.
It's that explanation he offered in a lengthy statement that resulted in Alameda County Judge James Cramer rejecting his plea deal. Judge Cramer said Almena, didn't take adequate responsibility for the conditions that led to the 2016 fire. 36 people died.
Attorney Mary Alexander represents families of 12 victims.
"It was a surprise to all of us that the judge made that decision but they were very pleased," said Alexander.
Almena says the judge took his words out of context by only reading part of what he wrote.
"He tricked me he took away the truth of my statement the truth of what I wanted to say and then he still found me not remorseful enough," said Almena.
In exchange for no contest pleas to involuntary manslaughter, the deal was for Almena to get nine years in jail, while co-defendant Max Harris would get six.
There could be a new plea deal or the case could go to trial.
"A lot of the families would like this to go to trial because they want answers and they want to hear the evidence," said Alexander.
Almena calls himself an easy target.
"They're so high on themselves right not that they can do whatever they want and who's going to stop them what higher court can I appeal to," said Almena.
Alexander says she expects the civil case to go to trial. There is a hearing Friday to determine next steps in the criminal case.
For for full coverage on the investigation into Oakland's deadly Ghost Ship Fire, visit this page.