The Latest: Family stunned after verdicts in warehouse fire

National News

FILE – This combination of June 2017, file booking photos provided by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office shows Max Harris, left, and Derick Almena at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, Calif. A jury has decided the fate of two men charged with involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors say they turned a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse into a cluttered maze that trapped 36 partygoers during a fast-moving fire. The verdicts for Derick Almena and Max Harris will be announced Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, after a three-month trial that drew family and friends of the victims to a packed courtroom, said Almena’s attorney, Brian Getz. They face up to 39 years in prison if convicted. (Alameda County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on verdicts against two men charged with involuntary manslaughter after a fire in a California warehouse killed 36 partygoers (all times local):

4 p.m.

A family of a man who died when a fire tore through a party at a California warehouse says they’re stunned and frustrated that a jury acquitted one defendant and couldn’t reach a verdict for another charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Alberto Vega, whose brother Alex Vega died, said Thursday that he was “in shock” and felt “sick to his stomach” after a jury found Max Harris not guilty and a judge declared a mistrial for Derick Almena.

Alex Vega’s mother, Mary Vega, says she’s angry at the outcome but doesn’t regret that a judge threw out a plea agreement last year after families protested that the sentences were too lenient.

She says at least Harris served more than two years awaiting trial.

Alameda County Chief Assistant District Attorney Kevin Dunleavy says prosecutors are going to evaluate their approach as they move forward against Almena.

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3:45 p.m.

An attorney for the leader of an artists’ commune has broken down in tears after a jury said they couldn’t agree whether to convict or acquit his client in a California warehouse fire that killed 36 partygoers.

Brian Getz, a lawyer for Derick Almena, said Thursday that “people shouldn’t forget what happened to those 36” in December 2016. A judge declared a mistrial for Almena.

Getz says people were living in substandard housing because they couldn’t afford the San Francisco Bay Area’s expensive rents.

The same jury acquitted co-defendant Max Harris of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors said he acted like a manager by collecting rent at the warehouse called Ghost Ship.

Tyler Smith, an attorney for Harris, agreed that those living in the illegally converted warehouse “would have been on the streets otherwise.”

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2:55 p.m.

A jury has acquitted one man of involuntary manslaughter but couldn’t reach a verdict for the leader of an artists’ commune accused of turning a California warehouse into a cluttered maze that trapped 36 partygoers during a fast-moving fire.

Jurors on Thursday found Max Harris not guilty but said they could not unanimously agree on whether to convict or acquit Derick Almena of involuntary manslaughter. They have deliberated since Aug. 26.

The December 2016 fire broke out during an electronic music party at the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, killing 36 people.

Prosecutors allege the men were criminally negligent when they illegally converted the building into a residence for artists and held unpermitted events.

The defendants said government workers failed to raise concerns about fire hazards in the warehouse.

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12:25 p.m.

A jury has reached verdicts for two men accused of turning a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse into a cluttered maze that trapped 36 partygoers during a fast-moving fire.

Defense attorney Brian Getz says his client, Derick Almena, and Almena’s co-defendant Max Harris will hear their fate Thursday afternoon after a three-month trial on involuntary manslaughter charges.

They face up to 39 years in prison if convicted.

The December 2016 fire broke out during an electronic music party at the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, killing 36 people.

Prosecutors allege the men were criminally negligent when they illegally converted the industrial building into a residence for artists and held unpermitted events inside.

The defendants say city workers are to blame for not raising concerns about fire hazards in the warehouse.

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