OAKLAND - With the passing of the three year anniversary of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland that killed 36 people, the owners of the building can no longer be criminally charged for involuntary manslaughter. The statute of limitations expires at the end of the day Monday.
After midnight, Alameda County prosecutors are out of time to bring those charges against Chor, Eva and Kai Ng -- the same charges faced by tenants Max Harris and Derick Almena. Chor is the building owner and her children Eva and Kai acted as property managers.
Harris was aquitted of involuntary manslaughter, but Almena still faces 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter after a jury hung on his fate. He is scheduled to be re-tried in March.
Tyler Smith, Harris' attorney, said, with the the Ng's not charged, the cards are unfairly stacked against Almena in his re-trial.
"Derick will be sitting at the defense table alone," Smith said. "[The jury's] not going to hear from Chor Ng, from Eva Ng or Kai Ng about what they knew, about what they saw in the warehouse."
Over the course of Almena and Harris's trial, defense attorneys presented rental documents that showed the Ngs were made aware of an electrical fire years before the tragedy. The attorneys also presented code violation notices that warned the landowner about hazardous conditions and life threatening safety at the warehouse.
Multiple attempts by 2 Investigates to hear from Chor, Eva or Kai Ng were unsuccessful. Outside her Oakland home Monday, Chor would only say "sorry" after refusing to comment. The family's public relations manager, Sam Singer, also confirmed the family does not want to respond.
While Serra and Smith believe the Ngs should still be charged, they said they also hold the Alameda County district attorney responsible.
"Not charging [the Ngs] has tainted the whole prosecution" of his client, Serra said.
2 Investigates reached out to the District Attorney Nancy O'Malley's office on Monday. Deputy District Attorney and spokesperson Teresa Drenick responded saying, "As this matter remains an active case with future court dates, we are declining to comment."
The Ng family may be forced to testify in the civil cases against them. The attorneys in those cases have long said they were waiting to see what happens criminally before moving forward with their civil claims against the Ghost Ship owners.