This afternoon Derick Almena copped a plea and pled guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter resulting from the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland more than four years ago.

Angela Ruggiero for The Mercury News reported that Alameda Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson read out loud each of the 36 counts and the name of each of the victims who died in the fire during a party on December 2, 2016. Almena, who appeared on Zoom due to coronavirus concerns, plead guilty to each one.

In a controversial decision by prosecutors, Almena, the leaseholder for the warehouse who rented studios and living and working space inside the Ghost Ship space, was offered a plea agreement after his first trial ended in a 10-2 deadlock by the jury.

A plea agreement had also been in place prior to the first trial, but was rejected by the previous judge as too lenient.

Almena, who is currently confined to house arrest after being sprung from jail due to to the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to be sentenced to 12 years in prison. However, with “jail time already served and credit for good behavior, Almena likely won’t return to Santa Rita Jail,” Ruggiero reports:

Family members previously told this newspaper they were angry and distraught over the plea deal and the short amount of time Almena will be receiving; one parent called it a “slap on the wrist,” another “disappointed” in the outcome. They said they had not been told about it by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office until a Zoom video conference last week.


Almena’s attorney had previously floated the outrageous theory that unknown “arsonists” had started the fire.

Among the victims were acclaimed electronic music producer Chelsea Dolan, aka Cherushii, Griffin Madden and Johnny Igaz, a DJ who had just begun releasing music produced under the name Nackt. Igaz’s influence and the effect of the Ghost Ship Fire was spoken about by Jeremy Bispo in a recent 5 Mag cover story on Bay Area collective As You Like It.

Photo by Jim Heaphy. Cullen328 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons