Ghost Ship Trial: Max Harris questioned on witness stand

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OAKLAND (KRON) — Prosecutors got their first chance to question Max Harris on the witness stand on Tuesday in the Ghost Ship Trial in Oakland.

Harris and co-defendant Derick Almena each face 36-counts of involuntary manslaughter for the people who died in a fire at the warehouse, while attending a music event back on December 2, 2016.

Prosecutor Autry James asked Max Harris what is a lie from your perspective?

Harris replies a lie is an untruth. That set the stage for the first day of cross-examination, the District Attorney going after Max Harris truthfulness on the witness stand.

Right out the gate, the prosecution zeroed in on Harris’s testimony regarding an email from the landlord declining his request for the Ghost Ship to acquire the warehouse space next door.

The landlord turned him down due to unpaid rent & utilities — He testified that was the first he heard that.

Then the D.A. produced three emails between him and the landlord discussing unpaid utilities and rent dating back to 2015.

“You would think that he was handing him a gun with bloody fingerprints on it but okay wow that his big gotcha moment is that he showed Max an email from a year before where the word electricity was used between Eva or Kai Eng. Max’s response was okay, you got me,” Smith said.

In that same email between landlord and Harris, he refers to the auto shop next door as toxic.

On direct examination, Harris testified that he didn’t want to upset the people next door because he didn’t want to get hurt.

“It shows motive. Omar had the motive. You know we’re going to let the jury connected the dots on that but there was bad blood. Omar was being forced out. Omar was probably not happy about the things going on at the Ghost Ship,” Smith said.

A mother of one of the 36 victims saw something else in his answers to that line of questioning.

“If you are having problems with gangs in your area where you are having the warehouse events and you don’t have safety precautions and you don’t have crowd control, that says a lot about the people you think you’re inviting over to your warehouse,” Ivania Chavarria, Chase Wittenauer’s mother, said.

A Ghost Ship resident who survived the deadly fire told KRON4 that he did not experience any tension with the people in the auto shop next door.

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