Judge sets new trial date for Ghost Ship founder Derick Almena

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Derick Almena's request for a bail reduction was denied in an Oakland courtroom on Friday. He will stay in jail until his next trial, which has been set for March 30.

Almena has been in jail for more than two years and that's where he will stay, until the next trial on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for those who died when the Ghost Ship warehouse was gutted by fire in December 2016.

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"The prosecution and defense have the same desire. And what is that desire? We want to go to trial," said Almena's attorney Tony Serra.

Serra argued Almena is not a flight risk because he has no place to go, has no money and wants to be with his wife and kids. He also argued Almena will be in jail for more than three years before a verdict is reached in his case, questioning whether that is fair.

Almena's wife, Micah Allison had hoped his bail would be reduced from $750,000 to something his family could afford, but an Oakland judge disagreed.

"I am obviously really sad about this denial of the bail. All Derick wants is to be with his kids. That's all he wants all he has ever wanted and it is difficult that that was denied," Allison said after the hearing.

Judge Trina Thompson said the court must consider the safety of the victims and called this a serious offense. She said she also has to consider the probability of Almena showing up for his court appearances. The judge said she can't ignore that Almena has had court orders in the past and he did not abide by directives of authority.

The defense asked that bail be lowered to $50,000. The judge left it at $750,000. Almena can't pay that and will remain in jail until his trial.

Micah Allison said she has seen reports that her husband does not have family support and she said that is not true. She wants people to know his mom and sister live in LA and can't afford to come to all these hearings but that they are praying for him every day.

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She was asked outside of court how their three children are doing.

"I don't take them to jail anymore because it's really hard. They are kids. They don't understand. There is glass, they can't touch their father. They can't have any contact. There has been a lot of separating and they are in pain," she said.

Almena is being charged with the deaths of the 36 people who died when a fire broke out at the Oakland warehouse during a concert in December of 2016. He was managing the building as the master tenant.

His attorney, Tony Serra, spoke passionately about the next step after the hearing.

"We want to go to trial. We don't want to negotiate. We don't want to involve ourselves in any kind of plea agreement. We want a trial. Our case is stronger, we are confident," Serra said.

The trial date the judge set today will be the second trial for Almena. The first trial ended with a hung jury.

Co-defendant Max Harris was found not guilty last month, but the same jury hung 10 to 2 on Almena's guilt or innocence.

"I know there are some people who say that Almena is not remorseful," said Almena attorney David Getz, "and has not shown remorse for what happened.Well he has. Every single day he thinks about it."

In a separate hearing, two jurors who were dismissed from the trial for misconduct were found in contempt by Judge Trina Thompson, but neither will pay a fine, or serve jail time.

The next hearing here at the courthouse for Derick Almena is set for January, with the new trial set for March 30th. Some of the family members of those who died in the Ghost Ship told us they'll be there.

"I feel stronger now because we've had these few weeks off and I will feel stronger when the next trial begins," said Colleen Dolan, the mother of Chelsea Faith Dolan, a musician who was set to play at a concert the night of the fire. "I will be there as an advocate for my daughter and that is very important to me. "

At this point, it appears neither the prosecution or defense is interested in renewing plea negotiations. If convicted, Almena faces up to 39 years in prison.

See more stories on the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.

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