Ghost Ship defense attorneys criticize DA's gag order

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Defense attorneys for the two men charged in connection with the Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire are calling the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office a “manifestation of evil.”

At a press conference, held Monday afternoon, they expressed their frustrations upon learning prosecutors had filed a motion for a gag order, preventing the attorneys or their clients from speaking to anyone about the case outside of court, including the media.

“They want to shut us down, they don’t want to hear from us,” attorney Tony Serra said. “They want to say it’s going to affect the jurors. Well, everything they god damn did affected the jurors and they knew they were doing it. We’re very angry.”

Serra represents Derick Almena, the master tenant of the Ghost Ship warehouse where 36 lives were lost in a fire in December 2016. Almena managed the artists collective and prosecutors argue he and artistic director Max Harris are ultimately responsible for the fire. It’s something defense attorneys dispute given that police, fire and child protective services had visited the warehouse and never reported any safety concerns or fire hazards.

“Our clients are charged so that the fire department and the building inspector who failed to do their duties and PG&E that failed to inspect…they want to be insulated from civil liability so they picked two scapegoats and charged them with the criminal offense,” Serra said. “That’s not fair and that’s not right.”

A new judge will take up several motions in a hearing on Thursday morning in superior court. Attorneys for Almena and Harris argue prosecutors destroyed evidence failed to charge others, including the building’s owners and city employees.

“It’s of paramount importance to the public that they get the truth because other people will die because nothing has changed,” Max Harris’ attorney Curtis Briggs said. “A cover-up has occurred here. It’s still occurring.”