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Ghost Ship Master Tenant Almena Released From Santa Rita Jail

DUBLIN (KPIX 5) -- Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena has been released from Santa Rita Jail Monday after his bail was reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Alameda County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said Almena had left the facility Monday afternoon at around 4 p.m.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson, who has issued a gag order barring the attorneys in the case from talking to the media, released Almena at a hearing on Monday that members of the press and public were barred from attending or listening to.

A law enforcement source told KPIX 5 last month that Almena's bail had been dropped to $150,000, which allowed his family to bail him out. An outbreak at the jail has led authorities to release a number of inmates who were not considered dangerous as the Alameda County Sheriff's Office attempts to limit the number of coronavirus cases.

Additionally, the jail is currently on a zero bail order, which allows setting bail at $0 for non-violent felonies and misdemeanors.

There were rumors last month that Almena would be released, but he had remained in custody until Monday.

Almena's release was previously denied on March 30. Defense lawyer Tony Serra said he asked that Almena, who has been in custody since he was arrested and charged in June 2017 in connection with the fatal Ghost Ship warehouse fire, be released on his own recognizance or a personal recognizance bond.

Serra told the judge that Almena's health was deteriorating and the conditions at Santa Rita are unsafe because of the possibility that inmates and deputies there could spread the coronavirus.

Almena, 49, is charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for a fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse in the 1300 block of 31st Avenue in Oakland's Fruitvale district the night of Dec. 2, 2016, that killed 36 people.

A lengthy trial for Almena and co-defendant Max Harris, the warehouse's artistic director, ended last Sept. 5 with jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of convicting Almena and acquitting Harris of all charges. Harris was released from custody later that day but Almena was in custody in lieu of $750,000 bail.

Almena's second trial originally was scheduled to begin in April but has been postponed until July 6 because California Supreme Court Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye has temporarily suspended all jury trials because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Serra said he thinks the trial will be postponed a second time because the court system may not be ready for jury trials by then.

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