The manager of an art venue where 36 people died in a fire in Oakland, California, in 2016 was formally sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison, but will serve out just 18 months of that from home with an electronic bracelet.
"I am sick with shame. I am so sorry. My shame cannot stand as any defense against what I am responsible for," Derick Almena, the leaseholder of the building known locally as the "Ghost Ship," said in a statement read out in court by his lawyer.
Almena had turned the warehouse into a public space dedicated to music and art. It burned down during an electronic music concert on December 2, 2016. The victims were mostly aged between 20 and 30 years old.
Almena and Max Harris, who helped him manage it, were tried for manslaughter and had faced nearly 40 years in prison.
After several years of proceedings and two lawsuits, the jury acquitted Harris of all charges, and was deadlocked over those against Almena.
The manager finally pleaded guilty earlier this year.
Under the terms of the agreement, he was formally sentenced to 12 years in jail by an Oakland court. But due to good behavior and time served, the 50-year-old will serve the remainder of the sentence, approximately 18 months, at home with the monitoring device.
Almena had rented the warehouse in Oakland, California three years before the fire and turned it into a collective for artists.
He also received rent from at least 25 tenants, according to the prosecution, without having equipped the structure with smoke detectors, alarms or fire-fighting systems.
The "Ghost Ship" was also packed floor to ceiling with sculptures, musical instruments and furniture, all dotted with multiple electrical connections -- a flammable labyrinth that turned into a death trap for occupants when the fire broke out, prosecutors said.
The damage from the blaze was so severe that investigators could never determine the cause of the fire, which could have been triggered by a power failure, cigarette or candles.