Ghost Ship Trial: “I’m gonna die”

Bay Area

There was emotional testimony Monday from prosecution witnesses on the first day of testimony in the Oakland Ghost Ship Trial. 

The mother of one victim told the jury she received a text message “I am gonna to die now” from her daughter who passed away in the fire. 

Another witness in the trial, Robert Jacobitz, was set to testify this week — but died in a crash in San Pablo Sunday afternoon.

Alameda County deputy district attorney Casey Bates told jurors last week that Jacobitz was an unlicensed contractor who performed inexpensive work at the warehouse soon after Almena rented it in November 2013.

Bates said during opening statements last week that Almena turned to Jacobitz for inexpensive help with the warehouse’s conversion after another contractor told Almena it would cost at least $5,000 to install a fire door and new stairs to the second floor.

Prosecutors have also said Jacobitz performed electrical work at the warehouse.

Two men are charged in the Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36 people. 

Derick Almena and Max Harris each are charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter involving the 2016 blaze at a dilapidated Oakland warehouse known as the “Ghost Ship” during an unlicensed concert.

Authorities say the 48-year-old Almena rented the warehouse and illegally converted it into an entertainment venue and residences before the fire. The 28-year-old Harris helped him collect rent and schedule concerts.

One defense attorney immediately alleged prosecutorial  misconduct following the first witness on Monday telling court prosecutor whispered “if this is the kind of bull… when we provide witness list then we won’t provide any list.”

A leaseholder for the Ghost Ship warehouse testified on Monday that master tenant Derick Almena laughed him off when he told him that the building should be brought up to code.

Nicholas Bouchard, 27, the second witness in the trial of Almena, 49, and Ghost Ship creative director Max Harris, 29, said he called a meeting several weeks after he and Almena signed a lease for the warehouse at 1309 31st Avenue on Nov. 10, 2013, to address his concern that they were violating 
the terms of the lease by allowing people to live there.

Bouchard said he also was concerned that there were safety issues because the building lacked adequate smoke alarms and fire extinguishers and there were electrical and water issues as well.

But Bouchard said Almena arrived late for the meeting and when he said when he finally showed up “he scoffed and laughed at us” and looked at his cellphone and Facebook.

Bouchard said he lived with Almena and a few others at the warehouse for a few weeks after they signed the lease but he moved out because of his concerns.

 Testimony continues Tuesday morning.

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