Attorney: Warehouse fire defendant in near mental breakdown

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An attorney for the operator of an Oakland warehouse fire where 36 people died in a fire says his client is experiencing a near mental breakdown.

Lawyer Tony Serra made the comments at a news conference Friday, using a photo of his client, Derick Almena, and his family as a backdrop.

Authorities say the 47-year-old Almena rented the warehouse and illegally converted it into low-cost housing for artists and an entertainment venue.

He appeared in court on Thursday but did not enter a plea. His arraignment on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter was continued until June 15.

Almena was arrested Monday after a six-month investigation of the Dec. 2 fire that occurred during an unpermitted electronic music concert at the building known as the Ghost Ship.

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