Ghost Ship defendant says he's 'heartbroken' by tragedy and charges

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The two defendants charged criminally in the Ghost Ship Warehouse fire appeared together for the first time in court Friday but won't enter their pleas until next month.

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Max Harris' attorneys say the Alameda County District Attorney is strategically going after the people least likely to have the means to defend themselves. Two attorneys from two separate firms have taken Harris' case pro bono. For now they say they have no plans to make a motion to separate Harris from co-defendant Derick Almena.

"There's not a malicious or greedy bone in Max's body," said Harris' Aunt Laura Lind during a press conference.

"When I visited him at the jail earlier this week with Alex, among the first things he said was I'm sorry if you have to miss work for this," said friend Elissa Roy.

Harris, along with co-defendant Almena, face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the 36 lives lost in the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire.

"Somebody who loved people as much as Max Harris clearly loves people, as much as somebody loved creating art as much as Max Harris loved creating art would never put people and art in a position where they could be destroyed or harmed," said Curtis Briggs, Harris' Attorney.

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"I am heartbroken to be both someone who witnessed the horrible events and who lost loved ones but who now is on trial for something I never would have imagined possible," said Harris in a written statement read during Friday's press conference.

Earlier in the day Harris and Almena were in court. Their plea hearing was moved to July. Outside the courtroom attorneys for each promised his client would be vindicated.

"He tried to direct people out, he did direct people out, he hurt himself trying to get firefighters access," said Briggs.

"We don't really in this trial forsee the emphasis on defending our client. It's going to be a reversal of role. We're going to be prosecuting. We're going to be prosecuting the real culprits," said Tony Serra who is representing Almena.

Serra has said that includes the building's owner, PG&E, the fire department and building inspectors, none of whom are facing criminal charges.
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