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Witness Says he Paid Rent to Warehouse Defendant

A witness at a court hearing for two men charged in the deadliest building fire in the U.S. in more than a decade says he thought he was going to die in the fire.

Posted: Dec. 6, 2017 6:01 PM
Updated: Dec. 6, 2017 6:01 PM

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The second witness at a court hearing for two men charged in a fatal warehouse fire in Oakland says he paid rent to one of the defendants to live there.

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Jose Avalos testified Wednesday that Derick Almena told him to pay Max Harris rent for his loft space at the warehouse known as the Ghost Ship. A fire there on Dec. 2, 2016 killed 36 people.

The warehouse had been illegally converted into living space for artists, was cluttered and had no fire alarms or sprinklers.

Prosecutors are presenting evidence this week to persuade a judge that Almena and Harris should stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges.

Prosecutors say the men knowingly created a firetrap and deceived the building's owner, police and fire officials. The two have pleaded not guilty.

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