Derick Almena and Max Harris were charged with 36 counts of manslaughter.
Derick Almena, the Ghost Ship's master tenant, and Max Harris, its creative director, were arrested last June on 36 counts of manslaughter. The criminal case, brought by the Alameda County District Attorney, was settled today with "both agreeing to serve less than 10 years in jail and avoiding what could have amounted to life sentences in state prison," according to the East Bay Times.
Almena, aged 48, will serve nine years of a 12-year sentence in Alameda County Jail, with the rest of the sentence being served on probation. Harris, 28, will serve the remainder of a six-year sentence in jail. Both could serve as little as half their terms with good behavior. The presiding judge also scheduled a two-day sentencing hearing for August so "victim families can give impact statements."
A trial was set to start on July 16th, but during today's hearing the judge read the counts related to each of the 36 perished, to which Harris and Almena quietly responded "no contest."
Families of victims have been critical of the decision, the Times reports, but hold out hope for victories in ongoing civil cases, including proceedings against the Ghost Ship's owners, the Ng family, who knew about the warehouse's electrical issues and collected a $3 million insurance payout following the fire. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley suggested the family was unlikely to be charged in criminal proceedings unless evidence implicating them surfaces.
The death of artists like Chelsea Faith Dolan (Cherushii), Johnny Igaz (Nackt) and Cash Askew (Them Are Us Too) at the Ghost Ship continues to impact the Bay Area electronic music scene. Check out our feature, Fighting the tide: Underground dance music in the Bay Area, published earlier this year.