In a somewhat unexpected move, California judge James Cramer rejected the plea deals of two men involved in the tragic 2016 Ghost Ship venue warehouse fire. Derick Almena and Max Harris were charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter following the tragic event. Upon revealing his decision, Judge Cramer explained that Almena didn’t “accept full responsibility and remorse” for the events that occurred at an unlicensed concert at the Oakland, California venue. While the judge found Harris to be sincere in his culpability, the plea was for both men and was thus rejected. The plea would have sentenced Almena to nine years in prison, and Harris to six.
The cause of the fire was initially undetermined, but a litany of electrical problems and amateurish wiring, including the use of many power strips, likely lead to the blaze. To make matters worse, the building’s rundown condition prevented attendees from escaping and trapped many on the second floor.
While Harris and Almena could have been be released in half of their sentencing time due to good behavior had the deal been accepted, the families of the victims however fought valiantly against the plea deals – to their success. While in court last week, Almena expressed his apologies to the grieving families but said he understands that nothing he could say would assuage their pain.
The case will now move to a jury trial where the men could face up to 39 years if convicted.
Source/Photo: NBC News