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The Latest: Defense seeks to shift blame for warehouse fire

May 1, 2019
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FILE - This combination of June 2017 file booking photos provided by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office shows Max Harris, left, and Derick Almena, at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, Calif. More than two years after 36 people died in the fire, Almena and Harris, the two men who face charges of involuntary manslaughter, will stand trial on charges that they allegedly illegally converted the industrial building into an unlicensed entertainment venue and artist live-work space. (Alameda County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on the trial of two men in a deadly California warehouse fire (all times local):

11:45 a.m.

A defense attorney told jurors his client is a family man and artist wrongly charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in a California warehouse fire that killed three dozen people.

Derick Almena’s attorney, Tony Serra, also told jurors during his opening statement on Wednesday that others are to blame for the deadly Dec. 2, 2016, Oakland fire that occurred during an unpermitted concert.

Serra blamed Oakland building department officials for failing to inspect the structure annually as required by city law.

He also said arson is to blame for the fire.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators could not determine the cause.

Almena rented the warehouse, and prosecutors say he illegally converted it to a residence and entertainment venue. Max Harris is also charged. Prosecutors say he helped Almena collect rent and schedule concerts.

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12:05 a.m.

A defense attorney is expected to counter a prosecutor’s emotional opening statement by attempting to deflect blame from his client charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with a Northern California warehouse fire that killed three dozen people.

Derick Almena rented the Oakland warehouse and is accused of illegally converting it into an unlicensed living space and entertainment venue lacking fire prevention equipment like sprinklers and smoke detectors. The Dec. 2, 2016, fire killed 36 people.

Almena’s attorney Tony Serra says he will tell the jury Wednesday that others, including Oakland’s fire and building departments, are to blame for the fire for failing to inspect the warehouse annually as required by city law.

A prosecutor on Tuesday painted an emotional and dramatic picture of three dozen partygoers dying in a fast-moving fire during an unpermitted concert.