Judge Rejects Plea Deals in Deadly Oakland ‘Ghost Ship’ Fire

A drone flies over investigators outside the Oakland warehouse where at least 36 people died on Dec. 2, 2016. (Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

A drone flies over investigators outside the Oakland warehouse where at least 36 people died on Dec. 2, 2016. (Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

A Northern California judge on Friday rejected the plea deals for two men charged with dozens of counts of involuntary manslaughter in a fire that swept through an electronic music concert at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, killing 36 people.

The surprise move came a day after tearful relatives of the victims urged Alameda County Superior Court Judge James Cramer to reconsider the plea deals for property manager Derick Almena and Max Harris, who planned the concert the night of the fatal fire, calling the agreements a “sweetheart deal” and a “slap on the wrist.”

The fire broke out during a Dec. 2, 2016, concert, trapping scores of attendees inside. All of the victims, ages 17 to 61, died of smoke inhalation, according to coroner’s reports.

Almena, 48, the property manager who converted the Ghost Ship warehouse into an artist’s residence and underground concert venue, had agreed to plead no contest and accept a sentence of nine years in prison and three years of supervised release.

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