Judge assigned in Ghost Ship trial

Derick Almena (left) and Max Harris have been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Vernon Nakahara was assigned today as trial judge in the upcoming trial of two men facing 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.

Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena and creative director Max Harris are still scheduled to stand trial on April 2, Alameda County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said.

Nakahara retired at the end of last year but will handle the case on a special assignment.

Sunday marked the two-year anniversary of the Dec. 2, 2016 blaze that killed 36 people attending a music party at the warehouse at 1309 31st Ave.

Prosecutors allege that warehouse guests and residents were endangered by its makeshift electrical system and floor-to-ceiling load of pianos, wooden sculptures, pallets, motor campers, rugs, benches, tree limbs and tapestries.

They also say the warehouse had no city permits for residency or for concerts and shows, and allege that Almena and Harris knowingly created a firetrap with inadequate means of escape.

Harris' lawyer Curtis Briggs has said he thinks his client has a good chance of being acquitted in the trial because the defense has received evidence that shows Harris and Almena weren't responsible for the fire.

Almena's attorney Tony Serra has said his client can prevail at trial with the defense that Oakland city and fire officials were to blame because they didn't do a proper job of inspecting the warehouse.