Judge chal­lenge causes de­lay in Ghost Ship trial

The Mercury News - - Local News - By An­gela Rug­giero arug­giero@ba­yare­anews­group.com Con­tact An­gela Rug­giero at 510-293-2469.

OAK­LAND >> A hear­ing to ar­gue mo­tions in the Ghost Ship ware­house fire trial was de­layed Fri­day.

De­fen­dants Max Har­ris and Der­ick Al­mena, ac­cused of 36 counts each of in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter for the deaths at the Ghost Ship ware­house fire on Dec. 2, 2016, will re­turn to court again in two weeks so the case can be as­signed to a judge and court­room.

Alameda County Su­pe­rior Court Judge James Cramer ini­tially as­signed the case to Judge Thomas Rear­don, but Har­ris’ at­tor­ney Cur­tis Briggs used one of their chal­lenges to not have that judge pre­side over the case. Cramer said he needed to take a look at what judges were avail­able for the trial, and con­tin­ued the is­sue to Oct. 26.

Tony Serra, the at­tor­ney for Al­mena, had plans to make mo­tions Fri­day to re­in­state the plea deal. Orig­i­nally sched­uled for an­other judge to view, there was a mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and Cramer con­tin­ued the hear­ing on that mo­tion to be heard in Novem­ber.

The plea deal had orig­i­nally been agreed to with Judge Mor­ris Ja­cob­son, but then thrown out by Judge Cramer two months ago. Al­mena and Har­ris had agreed to plead no con­test to 36 counts each of in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter on the con­di­tion of nine years and six years in jail, re­spec­tively.

But af­ter two emo­tional days of tes­ti­mony dur­ing what was sup­posed to be a sen­tenc­ing hear­ing, Judge Cramer re­jected the deal, ef­fec­tively start­ing the trial process all over again.

Serra is ex­pected to make his case for the mo­tion to re­in­state the plea deal, and the mo­tions such as a change of venue to a dif­fer­ent county, on Nov. 9.

The trial isn’t ex­pected to start un­til spring 2019.

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