12 years in prison for a fire that killed 36

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The manager of an arts venue where 36 people died in a fire in late 2016 in Oakland, Calif., Was sentenced Monday night to 12 years in prison, but is expected to serve the remainder of his sentence, around 18 months on postponements at home.

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Derick Almena, manager of the “Ghost ship”, a warehouse he had transformed into a public place dedicated to music and art, was tried in September 2019 for manslaughter along with his “artistic director”, Max Harris .

The two men risked 39 years in prison for a series of misconduct and criminal negligence that the prosecution claimed resulted in the death of 36 people in the building, which was ravaged by flames on December 2, 2016 during an electronic music concert .

But at the end of the trial, Max Harris had been found innocent and the jury had failed to decide for Derick Almena.

The manager, tenant of the warehouse that he sublet to multiple people without having equipped the place with smoke detectors or fire-fighting systems, ended up pleading guilty at the beginning of the year. Under this agreement, he was formally sentenced to twelve years in prison by an Oakland court.

50-year-old Derick Almena is granted a remission for time spent in prison pending trial and for good behavior. Therefore, he will serve the remainder of his sentence, approximately 18 months, at home with an electronic bracelet.

The “Ghost ship” was littered “from floor to ceiling” with a junk of sculptures, musical instruments, furniture, all dotted with multiple electrical connections. A flammable labyrinth that turned into a death trap for the occupants when the fire broke out, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The damage was so extensive that the investigation was never able to formally establish the causes of the fire, which could have been started by an electrical failure, candles or a cigarette.

“I’m sick of shame. I am terribly sorry, ”Derick Almena told the families of the victims, acknowledging his responsibility in a statement read on Monday at the hearing by his lawyer.