The two men accused of turning an Oakland warehouse into a labyrinth-like fire trap pleaded not guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter Tuesday on charges connected to one of the deadliest fires in California history, officials said.
Derick Ion Almena, 47, the property manager who converted the warehouse into an artists residence and underground concert venue known as the Ghost Ship, and Max Harris, who served as the venue’s “creative director,” were informed they will stand trial on July 16 after a brief appearance in an Oakland courtroom Tuesday.
Almena and Harris were arrested and charged last summer after Alameda County Dist. Atty. Nancy E. O’Malley accused them of knowingly creating “a fire trap, with inadequate means of escape,” by allowing dozens of people to illegally reside in the building, which was supposed to serve as an artists collective.
Last year, prosecutors said as many as 25 people were living inside the warehouse, which had no fire suppression equipment. The warehouse, they said, was filled with flammable materials from “floor-to-ceiling.”
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