36 people were killed when a fire tore through San Francisco’s Ghost Ship warehouse venue in December 2016. Investigators never determined the cause of the fire. They did, however, find that scattered debris around the building accelerated its spread, and that Almena was aware of persisting electrical problems within the venue but never addressed them.
Almena was originally sentenced to serve 12 years in prison after a plea deal was reached. He was pulled from prison and placed under house arrest when safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic led to prison depopulation measures.
The former master tenant has now been sentenced to serve another 18 months on house arrest, but it’s unlikely that he will return to prison thereafter. Time already served and credit awarded for good behavior have factored into Almena’s sentence, and after the 18 months on house arrest, he will be placed on supervised probation for an additional three years.
Grieving family members of the Ghost Ship tragedy’s victims remain unsatisfied with the verdict. “This lenient, slap-on-the-wrist sentence is vastly inappropriate for the crimes Derick Almena committed,” said the family of fire victim Sarah Hoda in a statement. “Upholding the DA’s irresponsible plea recommendation would shortchange 36 victims and their families.”
“I know that no family member will find this in any way acceptable, and I accept that responsibility,” said Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson. “I wish I could in the stroke of a pen take away your deep loss and your sadness.”