Inmate accused of 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter released from CA prison in wake of pandemic

Derick Ion Almena, a man accused of 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter has been released from Northern California prison amid coronavirus concerns.

Henry Lee of KTVU tweeted Friday:

BREAKING: I’ve learned that Derick Almena, awaiting retrial in deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, is to be released on $150K bail from @ACSOSheriffs Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on Monday after he gave proof to court that he can stay at home in Lake County w/ankle monitor

Derick Almena, awaiting @AlamedaCountyDA retrial in Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland that killed 36 people, set to be freed from jail Monday. Families of victims outraged. 4 p.m. @KTVU

Moments ago, Lee tweeted:

UPDATE: Derick Almena, awaiting @AlamedaCountyDA retrial in Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland that killed 36, has been released from @ACSOSheriffs Santa Rita Jail in lieu of $150K bail in wake of coronavirus fears. He will stay at Lake County home under electronic monitoring

Mercury News reports the man accused of 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of three dozen who perished in the Ghost Ship fire in 2016 was released from custody Monday afternoon.

Derick Almena, 50, was granted his release by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson after a teleconference hearing Monday. Around 3:45 p.m., he was no longer in custody, according to jail records.

Almena had posted a $150,000 bail bond last month, but his address where he would live while he awaits his trial needed to be approved by the court before he was released. That address was verified Monday.

Almena was released to the city of Upper Lake, in Lake County, where his wife and children currently live. Almena is to remain on an electronic ankle monitor and shelter in place during his release.

He is also to have no contact with any of the victims’ family members or witnesses. He cannot leave the home for any reason unless given written approval by the court; any violation can send him back into custody.

Almena is facing a retrial for his role in the Dec. 2, 2016, blaze, which killed 36 people, including one tenant who lived at the Fruitvale district warehouse with about 20 others. Almena was the master tenant who signed the lease in 2013 with the understanding the building would only be used as an art collective. But he rented out the living space in the warehouse to others, and the prosecution alleged, allowed it to be filled to the brim with art, furniture, pianos and other items. The warehouse also was used for dance parties, much like the one on Dec. 2, 2016, that was taking place when the fire broke out. The fire spread so quickly that most of those on the second floor where the gathering was being held, were trapped and unable to escape the flames and smoke.

David Gregory, whose daughter Michela Angelina Gregory was one of the 36 who perished in the fire, said his family is serving a life sentence waiting for justice to be served since the night of the fire on Dec. 2, 2016.

“It’s been super stressful for me and my family, and we just want justice and some kind of closure, if that is even possible,” he said to this news organization on Friday.

Colleen Dolan, the mother of Chelsea Faith Dolan, who also died in the fire, was adamant in October that Almena should remain in custody. She told the press after a judge denied lowering Almena’s bail at that time that he would be a flight risk if he were ever released.

“I fully believe he would flee with his family,” she said. “I would personally like to see him stay, and be held accountable.”

Last month, Judge Thompson agreed to reduce Almena’s bail amount from $750,000 to $150,000 after Almena’s attorneys argued that the 50-year-old was vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 virus inside the Dublin jail.

Almena and former Ghost Ship tenant Max Harris were arrested in June 2017, and each was charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. In September, a jury acquitted Harris of all 36 counts but deadlocked 10-2 in favor of guilt for Almena. Following the verdict, Harris was released from Santa Rita Jail and is now living in Oregon.