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Man Guilty in Fire That Killed 36 Won't Go Back to Jail

Derick Almena will serve sentence at home
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 9, 2021 5:58 PM CST

(Newser) – Derick Almena, the master tenant of a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse that caught fire during a music event, killing 36 people, was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison, although he is unlikely to spend more time in jail. Already on house arrest after being released from jail last year because of coronavirus concerns, Almena was ordered to serve the rest of his term under electronic monitoring, followed by three years of probation. "I know that no family member will find this in any way acceptable, and I accept that responsibility,” Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson said at the conclusion of an emotionally charged case that was first derailed by a hung jury, then the pandemic. Many of the relatives had urged Thompson to reject a plea deal Almena had struck with prosecutors to avoid a second trial, calling it too lenient.

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Almena, 50, pleaded guilty in January to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a 12-year sentence. Because he received credit for time already spent behind bars while awaiting trial and for good behavior, he will spend the next one and a half years at home with an ankle monitor. Prosecutors said Almena was criminally negligent when he illegally converted the Oakland warehouse into a residence and event space for artists, dubbed the "Ghost Ship," filling the building with flammable materials and extension cords. It had no smoke detectors or sprinklers. The Dec. 2, 2016, inferno trapped victims on the illegally constructed second floor. "This lenient, slap-on-the-wrist sentence is vastly inappropriate for the crimes Derick Almena committed," the family of fire victim Sarah Hoda said in a statement read to the court.

(Read more Oakland fire stories.)

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