Ghost Ship defendants plead not guilty to involuntary manslaughter

- Derick Almena and Max Harris pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deadly Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.

A preliminary hearing for both defendants is scheduled for Nov. 13, at which time Alameda County prosecutors will present evidence in the case. After the hearing concludes, a judge will determine whether Almena and Harris will go to trial.

The fire at a warehouse on 31st Avenue in Oakland's Fruitvale District killed artists and musicians on Dec. 2, 2016.

After the hearing, defense attorneys again questioned why warehouse owner Chor Ng hasn't been charged with a crime. 

"The prosecution has chose to indict and charge two young men who are artists, who are poor, who have no money, trying to hang responsibility over what was a deficient structure, and the owner's responsibility, trying to hang that on Max Harris and Derick Almena, and that's unfair," said Curtis Briggs, an attorney for Harris. 

Several families of Ghost Ship victims were in court Wednesday, accompanied by attorney Mary Alexander, the liaison counsel who has filed a number of civil lawsuits. Those suits include Almena, Harris, the city of Oakland, Ng and PG&E as defendants.

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