Defense calls witness who says she saw men bragging about Ghost Ship Fire after it started

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The defense side of the Ghost Ship trial started on Monday. Attorneys for the self-described Ghost Ship executive director Max Harris began calling their first witnesses, including a woman who testified she saw a group of men bragging about the fire in the moments after it started.

"It doesn't really matter how the fire started," said Colleen Dolan. She doesn't buy the defense argument in the Ghost Ship case that if the fire was arson, then defendants Derick Almena and Max Harris must be innocent.

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Dolan's daughter, Chelsea Faith Dolan, was one of 36 people who died the night of the fire.

"It doesn't matter if it was beautiful or awesome or anything else," she said. "It doesn't matter how the fire started. It went up like a torch. It went up like a burning man structure, which is what they excelled at building."

One of Harris' attorneys, Tyler Smith, countered, "It's very important how it started."

Defense attorneys called Sharon Evans to the stand. She testified that she was at a taco truck where she heard a group of men laughing and celebrating as the warehouse erupted in flames a block and half away.

"They were saying no one is going to make it out of the building alive," she said. "No one is going to survive."

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According to Smith, "These men were all dressed in black, they were wearing black hoodies. This is what the witness says. This isn't something the defense is making up."

Ghost Ship Fire survivor and resident at the time, Michael Russell, told the jury he heard commotion that sounded like a fight the night of the fire and saw two to three people running from the warehouse. He also said a young woman was screaming for people to stay upstairs away from the fire.

Defense attorneys also put one of Harris' former art school instructors on the stand. She described him as reserved and extremely honest. At some point, Harris and Almena are both expected to testify in their own defense.

Take a look at the latest stories and videos about the Ghost Ship Fire trial.
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