In December 2016, 36 people died of smoke inhalation when a fire broke out in a faulty warehouse-turned-music venue in Oakland, California, called Ghost Ship. In the following months, Derick Almena, the man who ran the decrepit space, and Max Harris, the organizer of that evening’s event, were both charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Two weeks ago, Curtis Briggs, an attorney for Harris, said the only deal he’d accept is one that would allow his client to avoid all jail time. But it seems like the defendants have changed their minds. On Friday, Tyler Smith, another attorney representing Harris, said that his client and Almena both agreed to plea deals, telling the San Francisco Chronicle that the judge proposed an eight-year sentence to both defendants, after which defense attorneys and prosecutors spent the day having separate meetings in Judge Morris Jacobson’s chambers.
The move to accept a plea deal is likely a wise one for the two defendants, as the trial could have been a “grueling, months-long” process, as the San Francisco Chronicle put it, with prosecutors planning to call 30 to 40 witnesses, in addition to defense attorneys calling 10 witnesses each. If the two were to go to trial, they would stand the chance of receiving a full penalty for the 36 counts of manslaughter, which would result in 39 years in prison for each of the defendants.
No further details have been reported, as the agreement is confidential until the two men make their next appearance in Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday.