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The Latest: California warehouse fire hearing delayed

October 12, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on court hearing on fatal California warehouse fire (all times local):

11:15 a.m.

A judge’s vacation and miscommunication led to another delay in the court case connected to a Northern California warehouse fire that killed 36 people two years ago.

Attorneys for Derick Almena had planned to urge a judge Friday to restore a plea deal in which he had agreed to serve nine years in prison.

But a judge said Alameda County Judge Kevin Murphy, who was supposed to hear the case, had just returned from vacation on Friday and needed more time to prepare.

Almena and Max Harris each face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. They agreed to plead no contest to every count in August, with Harris to receive a six-year prison sentence. But Judge James Cramer rejected the plea deal, saying Almena failed to show enough remorse.

Outside court, Mary Vega, whose 22-year-old son died in the fire, expressed frustration with the slow pace.

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This story has been corrected to reflect Almena’s proposed sentence was nine years, not nine months.

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12:05 a.m.

One of two men charged in a Northern California warehouse fire that killed 36 people is attempting to resurrect a scuttled plea agreement.

On Friday, lawyers for Derick Almena are expected to argue in an Oakland court that a judge in August wrongly rejected an agreement reached with prosecutors to have Almena plead no contest to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a nine-year sentence.

Judge James Cramer ruled that Almena failed to show sufficient remorse for his role in the December 2016 fire. The 48-year-old rented the warehouse and illegally converted it into an underground entertainment venue and live-work space for artists.

Cramer rejected the plea deal after listening to grieving families of victims testify for two days about their losses.

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