Almena and Ghost Ship’s creative director Max Harris each face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the negligence that led to the deaths of three dozen party-goers in the worst fire in the history of Oakland, California.
Almena’s testimony was largely remorseful and full of
regret, until prosecutor Autrey James leaned on a statement made to police a
year before the incident to question the defendant’s credibility. Tempers flared
and Almeda became combative as his defending lawyer called the line of
questioning a “character assassination.”
“It is obviously wise to never be combative…” Almeda’s lawyer said to the press outside of the courtroom. “…Keep in mind, he hasn’t slept in three days. He’s up there fighting for his life…He does come to court emotionally drained.”
The rest of the testimony didn’t seem to go in Almena’s
favor, either. When asked if he had obtained operational permits for
assemblies, such as the party where the fire occurred, Almena said “I didn’t
know I had to.”
If convicted on all counts, Thomas Almena and Max Harris will receive up to 36 years in prison. Almena’s testimony will continue on Thursday morning, July 11 as the jurors return to court.