Ghost Ship master tenant apologizes for fire while considering plea deal

- Derick Almena spoke with 2 Investigates this week as a plea agreement offer was being worked out.  An Alameda County judge approved a potential deal on Friday, stating that both defendants, Derick Almena and Max Harris will receive 8-year sentences if they agree to the deal in connection to the deadly fire, attorney Tony Serra said. With credit for time served and good behavior, both men will spend another roughly three years in prison.

Almena said he just wanted everything to be over and in an exclusive jailhouse interview expressed nervousness surrounding the trial and knowing he would have to face the victims’ families.

“It kills me. They came to my house and that’s where they had to die,” Almena said. “I lost your children with you. I’m broken hearted…it’s beyond words.”

While spending a year behind bars, Almena has had time to reflect and has written letters to KTVU, the attorneys and the families. He was the master tenant at the Ghost Ship warehouse where 36 people lost their lives following a party in December 2016. This week, he wanted to share a message with everyone involved.

“I don’t hold it against you for how much you hate me and how much you blame me for this,” Almena said. “I completely understand and I’m totally sorry for that.”

With Almena and Harris each facing three dozen counts of involuntary manslaughter, the offer for a few more years in prison gives Almena hope for the future. However, if one of the defendants rejects the offer, both men will have to stand trial for the fire that killed 36 people in December 2016.

“I am humble and I am grateful for what they have offered me,” Almena said. “My children will still be in their early teens. They’ll still be pliable to my love, receptive to their father, I hope.”

Almena said he is still upset the building’s owners, the Ngs, and the city, including police and fire, have not been held accountable for their contributing rolls in the tragedy. If the case goes to trial, he said he would point the finger at others so the public will understand the truth. However, he hopes to spare the victims’ families ‘pain and suffering’ and weeks of testimony, offering an apology.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

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