Derick Almena

Ghost Ship Fire Defendant Almena Released Due to Virus

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The man still facing charges in the deadly 2016 Ghost Ship warehouse has been released on bail from Santa Rita Jail, officials confirmed Monday.

A hearing at the Oakland courthouse was held earlier in the day to determine whether or not Derick Almena should be released from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin because of the coronavirus outbreak. His bail was lowered from $750,000 to $150,000.

Almena has been in jail awaiting a retrial on 36 charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with those killed in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland in December 2016.

A Sheriff's Office spokesperson said Almena on Monday was picked up by his wife, who now lives in Lake County with their children. Almena's movements will be tracked by an ankle monitor as he awaits a retrial.

"The families are disappointed that he is being released," said Mary Alexander, an attorney in the Ghost Ship civil case. "They think he should be held accountable for his contribution to this terrible even that took 36 lives."

Almena was the master tenant of the warehouse in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, where a fire killed 36 people. Almena signed the lease in 2013 with the understanding the building would be used only as an art collective.

The fire broke out during a music party, which had not been permitted in that space.

Last year, a jury acquitted co-defendant Max Harris, who was a tenant at the warehouse, and the jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of finding Almena guilty.

Almena’s retrial date is scheduled for July 6, but Alexander said she doubts the court system can resume jury trials that quickly. The victim's civil case against the City of Oakland, PG&E and the warehouse owners is still set for October.

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