Booking photos released by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office shows Max Harris, left, and Derick Almena, at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, California., June 2017.
(Alameda County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
A judge in California on Friday rejected the plea offers from the two men who were charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter after the “Ghost Ship” fire in 2016.
Judge James Cramer says Derick Almena, 48, do not accept “the full responsibility and remorse” for the fatal blaze that ocurred during an unlicensed concert in the “Ghost Ship,” a dilapidated warehouse in Oakland that was used as an art space.
Prosecutors are referred to the building as a messy “death trap.”
In court on Friday, Max Harris, 28, apologized to the families of the victims, but said that he didn’t expect forgiveness.
“I know nothing I can say will come close. I’m sorry. … You are in my prayers, and for the rest of my life.”
– Max Harris, defendant
“I know nothing I can say will come close. I’m sorry,” he said. “You are in my prayers, and for the rest of my life.”
The plea deal had called for Almena to be sentenced to nine years in prison, Harris to six years.
The judge said that he found Harris to be sincere, but because the plea bargain was for both Harris and Almena, both requests were rejected.
The men have been released from prison after serving only half their sentences, which is typical for California prisoners who maintain a good disciplinary record.
Relatives of victims who died in the fire had hit the proposed sentences as too lenient.
Susan Slocum is the mother of Donna Kellogg, who was killed in the fire. She told the Bay Area Fox 2 KTVU that Almena and Harris “went easy.”
“An electric shock went through me. … I fear that this argument will be a bad precedent.”
– Susan Slocum, the mother of the victim
“An electric shock went through me,” she said. “I fear that this argument will be a bad precedent.”
Almena told the family of the victims that he thinks he would have died in the fire and that he was “guilty, believing that we were safe.”
“Forgive me, if you can,” he said. “If I can give you my children, I would do that.”
Almena and Harris could face life in prison if convicted in a trial. They have already over a year behind bars.
The authorities have alleged Almena rented the warehouse and illegally converted into an amusement arcade and homes for the fire. Harris was accused of helping him collect rent and the planning of the concerts.
Undated file photo provided by the City of Oakland shows the inside of the burnt warehouse, and after the deadly fire that broke out on Dec. 2, 2016, in Oakland, California.
(City of Oakland via AP)
The prosecutors said the two men had the shed in a residential area “drop dead” by cluttering with highly flammable knick-knacks, the block of the building is the number of turns, and not adequate safety measures for inviting the public inside.
Researchers from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said they were not able to determine the cause of the fire.
The relatives of the victims allege in lawsuits that the Oakland Fire department failed to check the warehouse annually is needed, and that the inspectors would have discovered the illegal conversions.
The lawsuits also claim Pacific Gas & Electric Co. not properly check, inspect and repair of electrical equipment which the power to the warehouse.
PG&E said in a statement that he has cooperated with the investigation and that a review of the records found no electrical problems at the building in the 10 years before the fire.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Amy’s Place is a news editor and reporter for Fox News.