[Previous version, posted at 4:45 p.m. ET]
Prosecutors alleged the warehouse’s leaseholder, Derick Almena, and Max Harris, who helped collect rent and acted as creative director for the art collective housed at the 10,000-square-foot facility, were responsible for the deaths resulting from the blaze.
Almena and Harris face up to 39 years in prison if the nine-woman, three-man jury finds them guilty on all counts. Their trial began in May and deliberations began last month.
It was one of the deadliest nightclub fires in US history and the deadliest American nightclub fire since The Station in West Warwick, Rhode Island, erupted in flames in 2003.
They also held music parties there. The fire came during one such event — an electronic dance party on December 2, 2016. Three dozen people died because they could not escape the building. One of the warehouse’s exits had been blocked, and the building was missing important safety features, such as fire alarms, marked exits and sprinklers, according to authorities.
Plea deal tossed
One of Almena’s attorneys, Tony Serra, told reporters that the plea “was an act of ethics and morality” rather than a raw admission of guilt.
Previously, Almena had told an NBC morning show that he was “incredibly sorry,” while his attorneys had said the charges were a miscarriage of justice and an “attempt to make a scapegoat out of our client.”
Defense lawyers tried to convince Cramer to reinstate it, but the judge — who made his decision after hearing two days of testimony from grieving families — would not budge, the station reported.
At least one family member had expressed disappointment with the deal, saying that while victims’ loved ones wanted to hear the men concede culpability, the proposed sentences felt insufficient.
“We just wanted some justice, just not to be two years or four years with time served,” said David Gregory, who lost his daughter, Michela, in the fire. “We don’t feel that, in our opinion, that was fair justice.”
The men also face civil lawsuits.
CNN’s Darran Simon and Augie Martin contributed to this report.