Two defendants have pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of 36 people caused by a fire in an Oakland warehouse known as the Ghost Ship in December 2016.

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Prison Sentences For Ghost Ship Fire To Be Handed Down

KCBS Radio Morning News
August 09, 2018 - 11:06 am
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OAKLAND (KCBS Radio) -- A sentencing hearing began Thursday for the two tenants held responsible for the Ghost Ship warehouse fire that killed 36 party goers in Oakland in 2016.

Survivors, relatives of the victims and possibly the defendants will make emotional statements before the court during the two-day hearing. 

In exchange for lighter sentences, Derick Almena, the master tenant, and Max Harris had pled no contest to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the inferno that raced through the illegally converted, crowded building on December 2, 2016. 

Almena is set to receive nine years behind bars. Harris will get six. Both copped plea deals that were finalized in July. With time served and good behavior factored in, they expect to be released in three years and two years, respectively. 

Susan Slocumb, the mother of 32-year-old fire victim Donna Kellogg, was the first relative to offer testimony Thursday morning. She said in court that Almena and Harris should have been given longer sentences. 

Almena often looked at the witnesses as they made their remarks while Harris averted making eye contact. 

Some critics wanted to see a full trial, because it would have introduced evidence about factors that led to the fire. 

"By not having the trial, we've been denied the opportunity to know specifically who to hold accountable," said Terry Ewing, a friend of one victim. "We, as Oakland and the state of California, have deeply lost something by not having a full trial."

Although the sentencing phase is the culmination of the criminal case, the court battles are not over. The building's owner has been sued, as well as the city of Oakland and utility company PG&Ef or allegedly turning a blind eye to conditions in the warehouse

Reported by Scott Lettieri and Melissa Culross

Written by Diana Shook