Derick Almena, who is currently serving a 9 year prison sentence, used to be the man in charge of a warehouse dubbed “Ghost Ship” in Oakland, California. Among other Craigslist and Facebook ads was an ad that Almena posted for the Ghost Ship that read, “Seeking all shamanic rattlesnake sexy jungle jazz hobo gunslingers looking for a space to house gear, use studio, develop next level Shaolin discipline after driving your taxi cab late at night, build fusion earth home bomb bunker spelunker shelters, and plant herbaceous colonies in the open sun & air”. Called a “creative space” by Almena, and described as a “surrealist pirate theater” to a new tenant who stayed for 3 weeks in 2014.
On December 2nd, 2016, at a music event in the Ghost Ship, a fire started. Authorities were unable to determine how it started, but the Ghost Ship burned down and 36 lives were lost. Almena, who has been described by many as “manipulative” and “narcissistic”, has been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Judge James Kramer, who ruled on Almena’s sentencing, said that Almena was not remorseful and therefore rejected his plea deal, which has led to a trial.
When Almena’s attorney discussed a potential change of venue for the upcoming trial, Almena went so far as to say (through a video-interview from Santa Rita jail) that he doubted he could get a fair trial in Alameda County now that everyone has heard him admit, “I’m guilty, I’m guilty for allowing this to happen”. So, Derick Almena has confessed to being responsible for the 36 lives lost in the Ghost Ship fire. But when asked in a jailhouse interview, “If and when you get to go back to your family, what are you going to do?”, he brought up how when he had to explain to his kids what happened he blamed it all on a devil, an “energy”. He also points the finger at the Ng siblings, who were the landlords for the Ghost Ship, calling them “mafia”, saying that they should be held responsible. Then he adds, “it doesn’t discount the fact that like, I was there and I was in a relationship with these kinds of people”, to make sure that he’s still taking at least some of the responsibility, since he’s already previously admitted his guilt.
His negligence and irresponsibility has cost him nearly 3 years so far, and with the upcoming trial it’s likely he’ll get more time added on.