OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Sunday marks two years since the tragic Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland, where a savage warehouse blaze at an electronic dance party killed 36 people.
The two men prosecutors say are responsible for the tragedy, 48-year-old Derick Almena and 28-year-old Max Harris, are due in court Monday -- one day after the tragedy’s anniversary – at which point they may learn the judge assigned to the trail.
In August, an Alameda County judge rejected the plea deal package for both men behind Oakland’s deadliest fire in a surprising decision. The original deal was brokered by Judge Morris Jacobson, but he couldn’t be there for sentencing because of personal reasons.
Judge James Cramer, who rejected the deal because Almeda didn’t show enough remorse, stood in. He said the proposed six-year sentence for Harris was sound, but he had to reject the package because the nine-year sentence for Almena wasn’t enough.
Last month, Judge Kevin Murphy rejected a bid by Almena to reinstate his plea deal. Almena’s attorney Tony Serra said he and his client were cheated because the judge allegedly promised to uphold the plea deal three times.
Serra argued that Cramer acted improperly with rejecting the agreement and said there is a conflict of interest. Almenda’s attorney said the judge was unduly influenced by the emotions of a fire victim’s family member after he sympathized with them because he too lost a child.
Both Almena and Harris had faced 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the fire in Oakland’s Fruitvale district. Prosecutors alleged the pair created firetrap conditions that led to the deaths. Almena was the master tenant of the warehouse. Harris helped Almena collect rents and manage events.