Plea deal in Ghost Ship warehouse fire case could be reached soon

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- We could learn Tuesday whether both defendants in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire have agreed to a plea deal. Their attorneys met behind closed doors with a judge at the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland Monday afternoon. The judge has ordered everyone to keep quiet.

When asked if a plea deal had been reached, attorney Tony Serra said, "I can't talk about that... but we'll be here tomorrow at 2 p.m."

The 2 p.m. hearing on Tuesday is expected to bring both sides to the courthouse. If a plea deal is approved, the defendants would avoid the maximum sentence of 39 years.

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The Bay Area News Group is reporting that in exchange for no contest to involuntary manslaughter, Derick Almena, the Ghost Ship's master tenant, would be sentenced to nine years in jail, while Max Harris, the artist collective's creative director, would be sentenced to six years.

"If you have the deaths of 36 people, that is a horrible tragedy. But what the judge is saying is this was a criminal negligence case. No one wanted this to happen," said legal analyst Steven Clark.

Clark also says the reported plea deal indicates that the judge likely acknowledges that others are responsible for the 2016 fire, including the city of Oakland, which let the Ghost Ship operate without the proper permits despite the fire trap conditions inside.

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"Because the criminal case is settling, the civil cases against the landlord and other governmental entities can now move forward and that can bring restitution to the victims' families," said Clark.

A plea deal would avoid a jury trial, which is scheduled to begin July 16, and expected to last up to four months.

For for full coverage on the investigation into Oakland's deadly Ghost Ship Fire, visit this page.
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