Suspects in Deadly Ghost Ship Fire Plead Not Guilty

This 2014 photo provided by Ajesh Shah shows the interior of a portion of the 'Ghost Ship' warehouse, taken while he was on a tour as a potential tenant of the Oakland, Calif., building. Dozens of people died at a party after a fire that started on Dec. 2, 2016 and swept through the building. 

Ajesh Shah via AP

Two men have pleaded not guilty in connection with a fire that killed 36 people in an illegally converted Oakland warehouse.

Derick Almena and Max Harris entered pleas Wednesday to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter each.

Prosecutors say the two men turned the Oakland warehouse into a deathtrap when they turned it into a housing and entertainment venue.

The 47-year-old Almena leased the warehouse, and prosecutors say 27-year-old Harris helped rent living space and organize for-profit concerts.

Both men lived in the warehouse along with several other tenants when a fire engulfed the structure in December during a musical performance that dozens attended.

The suspects’ lawyers say the responsibility for the fire should be determined with lawsuits in civil court rather than with criminal charges.