The Latest: Man charged in deadly California fire testifies

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on the trial of two men in a deadly California warehouse fire(all times local):

1 p.m.

One of two men blamed for a warehouse fire that killed 36 people in the San Francisco Bay Area two years ago told a jury that he helped maintain the building in exchange for free rent but insisted he was never in control of its operation.

Max Harris took the witness stand Monday in his own defense. He faces involuntary manslaughter charges and is accused of helping Derick Almena illegally convert the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse where the fire broke out during a concert.

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Harris testified that he began living in the warehouse after it had already been occupied by a number of renters. He described the Ghost Ship as an artist enclave where all residents lived communally, filled it with furniture and artwork, and said that nobody was fully in charge.

Harris’ lawyers say he was made a scapegoat for the tragedy.

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Eds: Deletes reference to Harris speaking for first time.

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6:45 a.m.

One of two men blamed for a warehouse fire that killed 36 people in the San Francisco Bay Area two years ago will get a chance to testify in court.

Max Harris is scheduled to take the witness stand Monday.

He faces involuntary manslaughter charges along with Derick Almena, who is accused of illegally converting the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse into an artist live-work space where the fire broke out in December 2016.

Harris is accused of collecting rent and booking unpermitted concerts at the warehouse.

Both men pleaded no contest to 36 counts of manslaughter last summer, but a judge scuttled the plea deal after victims’ families objected to the sentences as too lenient.

Harris’ lawyers say he was made a scapegoat for the tragedy.

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