Ghost Ship Trial Verdicts: Mistrial for Almena, Harris Acquitted - NBC4 Washington
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Ghost Ship Trial Verdicts: Mistrial for Almena, Harris Acquitted

Thirty-six people died in the blaze during a party at the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse back in December 2016

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    Ghost Ship Verdicts: Mistrial for Almena, Harris Acquitted

    A jury on Thursday acquitted one man and could not reach a decision on another defendant charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection to the deadly 2016 Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire. Melissa Colorado reports. (Published Friday, Sept. 6, 2019)

    A jury on Thursday acquitted one man and could not reach a decision on another defendant charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection to the deadly 2016 Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire.

    Ghost Ship creative director Max Harris was found by the jury not guilty on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Judge Trina Thompson declared a mistrial for master tenant Derick Almena after saying the jury was "hopelessly deadlocked."

    Jurors on a verdict for Almena were hung 10-2, with a majority favoring a guilty verdict. Attorney Tony Serra, who is representing Almena, said the defendant will return to court on Oct. 4. The Alameda County District Attorney's Office said the case against Almena remains active.

    Serra said his team is looking forward to the next trial and that "we will do better!"

    The Alameda County Sheriff's Office said Harris was released from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin just after 6 p.m. Thursday.

    The verdicts come a day after jurors requested to rehear testimony from an Oakland firefighter who was inside the warehouse years before the deadly fire.

    Thirty-six people died in the blaze during a party at the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse back in December 2016.

    Both Almena, 49, and Harris, 29, faced a maximum term of 39 years in state prison if they were convicted on all 36 counts.

    Prosecutors said Almena and Harris disregarded the safety of others when they illegally converted the warehouse into a residence for artists and threw unpermitted parties there.

    Outside the courthouse Thursday, David Gregory, the father of 20-year-old victim Michela Gregory, was disappointed with the verdicts.

    "I'm in shock, I don't know what else to say," Gregory said. "We were hoping for justice, and we did not get justice today."

    Almena rented the warehouse initially for the purpose of building theatrical sets inside, but then he quickly sublet the space to other artists and filled it with highly combustible materials that fueled the fire. Harris is accused of helping Almena convert the warehouse, collect rent and coordinate parties there.

    During trial, the men's attorneys raised the possibility it was caused by arsonists and argued that others shared the blame for the fire, including the city of Oakland, its fire department and the warehouse's landlord.

    Judge Thompson on Aug. 19 replaced three jurors with replacements. Two of the three jurors that were dismissed from the trial may be held in contempt for misconduct, Thompson said.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.