The master tenant in the 2016 Ghost Ship fire was back in an Alameda County courthouse today on weapons charges, but a judge ruled the charges were all a misunderstanding, and Derick Almena will not go back to jail.
A couple months before the six-year anniversary of the December 2016 Ghost Ship fire, the unauthorized party in a fire trap of an East Oakland warehouse which ultimately took the lives of 36 attendees, the seemingly finished story had a strange new chapter. While Almena was serving out the rest of his sentence in Mendocino County home confinement with an ankle monitor, prosecutors alleged that Almena had violated his probation being by being in possession of weapons. As Bay Area New Group reported in mid-September, a probation search of his Ukiah home had allegedly turned up a “a machete, 10 bows, more than 50 arrows, and an ‘unsecured’ live .38 caliber bullet on top of a dresser.”
And so it was more legal trouble for Derick Almena, who was called back into Alameda County court. Prosecutors argued possessing those weapons violated his probation, though really, the bullet was prosecutors' main piece of evidence alleging he’d violated probation. And if found guilty of weapons possession, Almena could have been resentenced for all those manslaughter charges for which victims' families felt he'd been punished too lightly.
UPDATE: Derick Almena, convicted of 36 counts of invol. manslaughter in deadly Ghost Ship fire, voices relief after @AlamedaSuperior Judge Kevin Murphy rules he did not break law by having bows & arrows, machete & round of ammo at Mendocino Co. home. No extra jail time pic.twitter.com/9kXERd2HCh— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) December 16, 2022
But a resentencing will not happen. KTVU reports that an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled the weapons were not a violation of his probation, and Alemena will not be resentenced or serve additional time.
Per KTVU, Almena’s attorney Tony Serra said that “the bows and arrow were because Almena practices archery,” which seems plausible. When prosecutors argued in September Almena should be charged with violation over possession of the bullet, his wife Micah Allison said, in KGO’s words, that the bullet was “on an altar she erected in their Ukiah home. She placed it next to the Buddha, and other keepsakes, to honor those who have died from gun violence.”
None of this explains the machete. But the bullet was the crux of prosecutors’ arguments, and there was no accompanying gun found in the household. So ultimately the judge decided, to borrow a phrase, “no harm, no foul.”
Image: Alameda County Sheriff's Office