Defendant Derick Almena is awaiting trial from home in an ankle bracelet, but a judge has approved a repeatedly botched motion allowing him to go to the dentist.
Next month will mark the four-year anniversary of the tragic Ghost Ship fire in Oakland that killed 36 victims and remains the deadliest fire in Oakland history. But the criminal trial proceedings against the warehouse space’s master tenant Derick Almena, charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, continues on after last year’s trial resulted in a hung jury. Almena was released from jail in April over coronavirus outbreak concerns (as were thousands of other non-violent inmates across the Bay Area), but he remains in his Lake County home with an ankle monitoring bracelet, and needs court permission to leave his house.
He got that permission Friday morning, but only for a trip to the dentist. The Bay Area News Group reports that an “exasperated” Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson gave Almena permission to leave the house for emergency dental work, attributing said exasperation to inconsistent filings and “procedural errors” from the defendant’s attorneys that wasted a lot of her time.
His lawyer Vincent Barrientos told the judge “I’m pleading with the court, do not punish my client because his team is not following procedures.” Judge Thompson granted the request, though only to go directly the dentist and immediately return home, at some yet-to-be-determined date between now and January.
This permission did require a hearing, but is not part of Almena’s criminal trial. That trial, originally slated to begin this past March before the pandemic hit, is scheduled to resume for preliminary motions on February 5, 2021, and jury selection is scheduled for March 8.
In terms of other legal proceedings, Almena’s co-defendant Max Harris was acquitted by a jury in September 2019. Under threat of a number of civil lawsuits, the city of Oakland paid a $32 million settlement to the victims families, PG&E also paid out an undisclosed settlement, and an additional civil trial is likely for the space’s landlord Chor Ng.
Image: Alameda County Sheriff's Office