The Latest: Lawyer tries shifting blame for warehouse fire

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on the trial of two men for 36 people at a warehouse fire (all times local):

4:10 p.m.

An attorney for one of the men facing charges after a deadly San Francisco Bay Area warehouse fire tried to shift blame for the blaze away from his client.

In opening statements Tuesday, the attorney noted that officials couldn’t determine the cause of the Dec. 2, 2016, fire in Oakland that killed 36 people. The attorney raised the possibility of arson, saying three witnesses will testify to seeing three strangers standing near the origin of the fire.

Max Harris is charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter along with Derick Almena, who rented the warehouse where the fire broke out during an unpermitted concert. Prosecutors say Harris was Almena’s assistant and helped collect rent and book shows at a warehouse illegally converted into a living space and entertainment venue.

Prosecutors say the men turned it into a “death trap” by filling it full of flammable materials and failing to install safety equipment like sprinklers and smoke detectors.

Almena’s attorney Tony Serra is expected to deliver his opening statements Wednesday morning.


12:45 p.m.

It has been an emotional and dramatic start to the trial of two men each charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse fire more than two years ago.

Family members of victims sobbed Tuesday in the gallery and clutched each another as a prosecutor recounted survivor accounts of escaping the fire in Oakland that killed three dozen people.

Alameda County deputy district attorney Casey Bates told jurors in his opening statement the two survivors will testify how they escaped while blinded in a darkened room by choking smoke and fire on the night of Dec. 2, 2016.

Bates also showed jurors text messages from victims saying goodbye to loved ones as the fire closed in on them.


10:55 a.m.:

A prosecutor opened the trial for two men facing charges after a deadly fire killed 36 people in an illegally converted Northern California warehouse by reading the name of each victim.

The opening by prosecutor Casey Bates left many victims’ relatives in tears Tuesday morning. It came at the start of what is known as “the Ghost Ship trial.”

Forty-nine-year-old Derick Almena and Max Harris, who is 29, each face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths.

Bates told the jury that the victims had no notice that a fire had started and perished quickly because of a lack of exits at the dilapidated warehouse the two had converted to a live-work space.

He says they all died because there was “no notice, time or exits.”


12 a.m.

A trial is set to begin for two men who face 36 counts each of involuntary manslaughter after a deadly fire broke out at an illegally converted Northern California warehouse.

Derick Almena rented the Oakland warehouse that caught fire Dec. 2, 2016, during an electronic music show. Prosecutors say the 49-year-old illegally converted the warehouse into an unlicensed entertainment venue and live-work space for artists.

Max Harris, who is 29, collected rent and scheduled concerts.

An Alameda County jury of nine women and three men was finalized Monday and opening statements are expected to begin Tuesday in Oakland.

A judge last year scuttled a plea deal between the two men and prosecutors. Almena agreed to a nine-year prison sentence and Harris to six years, but the judge said Almena didn’t show remorse.

Categories: California News