An Alameda County judge on Friday declined to release, but reduced the bail for a man charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with an Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36 people.
Judge Kevin Murphy said he decided against releasing 47-year-old Derick Almena on his own recognizance because the former leader of the Ghost Ship artists' collective might not return to court if he were let out.
Bail was reduced from $1.08 million to $750,000 for the master tenant of the illegally converted warehouse in the Fruitvale district that burned down during a concert on Dec. 2, 2016.
Almena’s wife, Micah Allison, was emotional before the Friday hearing, and his lawyers tried to paint an image of a family man and father of three children. This, despite the fact that Almena has previously dealt with Child Protective Services with regards his kids.
The suspect's defense team tried to assure Murphy that Almena would abide by any restrictions if he was granted release, but the prosecution argued that the Ghost Ship tragedy itself shows that the man is not adept at following rules.
"What did we get? $750,000 bail? From our perspective, that’s outrageus. He’s not a flight risk at any level," said Almena's lawyer, Tony Serra.
Serra also mentioned the possibility of going after third parties, including PG&E, who he thinks were responsible for the fire.
Almena and 27-year-old Max Harris have each been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the fire. Almena rented the warehouse, which District Attorney Nancy O'Malley called a "death trap." Prosecutors say Harris helped him sublet living space in the building. Harris' bail was previously reduced to $750,000.
Both men were scheduled to enter pleas on Friday, but the hearings have been postponed to Sept. 13.