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‘Ghost Ship’ leaseholder is sentenced to 12 years for warehouse fire that killed 36 people

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FILE - This undated file photo provided by the City of Oakland shows inside the burned warehouse after the deadly fire that broke out on Dec. 2, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. Derick Almena, who is facing a second trial after a fire killed 36 partygoers at a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse he's accused of illegally converting into a cluttered artists enclave is expected to plead guilty later this month, relatives of several of the victims said. Almena, 50, is expected to plead guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter on Jan. 22, 2021, families of several fire victims told the East Bay Times Wednesday, Jan. 13. (City of Oakland via AP, File)

Derick Almena, the leaseholder of a dilapidated Oakland warehouse — dubbed the “Ghost Ship” — that went up in flames, killing 36 people, was sentenced to 12 years in a plea deal that was accepted by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson on Monday.

The judge ordered Almena to serve nine years in local prison and three years of mandatory supervision, after he pleaded guilty in January to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter — one for each person killed in the fire.

But the remainder of the nine-year prison sentence could be served via house arrest with a GPS monitor, according to a news release from the Alameda County District Attorney’s office.

Almena was also ordered not to have any contact with Max Harris, a co-defendant who was acquitted on all 36 counts in 2019.

The deadly blaze broke out during a December 2016 electronic dance party in the ramshackle warehouse, which Almena rented out to artists who lived and worked there. One Oakland official previously told CNN that the building had not been inspected in three decades.

The probable cause document said Almena “allowed and encouraged tenants to use nonconventional building materials that he collected to create their living spaces. These nonconventional building materials included recycled dry wood, such as fence boards, shingles, window frames, wooden sculptures, tapestries, pianos, organs, wooden furniture, RV trailers, rugs, and other ramshackle pieces.”

The two-story structure also lacked critical safety features, authorities have said, including fire alarms, marked exits and sprinklers and when the fire broke out, partygoers were trapped.

It remains one of the deadliest nightclub fires in US history.

“Thirty-five out of the thirty-six people who lost their lives in this tragic fire were attending a concert that night. They had no idea just how dangerous the building really was,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in a statement this week. “They went to the Ghost Ship with the expectation of being entertained and returning safely home.”

CNN has reached out to Almena’s attorney for comment.

He will also have to pay restitution in an amount that will be determined by the court, according to the district attorney’s news release. A restitution hearing is scheduled for April 30.

CNN Newsource

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