Attorneys trying to reach a plea agreement on potential criminal charges against Portland landlord Gregory Nisbet for a fire that killed six people will meet for a final negotiation next week.

Prosecutors are pushing to charge Nisbet with manslaughter for negligent maintenance of the two-family building he owns at 20-24 Noyes St. in Portland, where the fire occurred Nov. 1. Nisbet’s attorney, however, said he will not accept a plea deal that includes a manslaughter charge.

Nisbet’s attorney, Matthew Nichols, said Tuesday that the exact time and day of the meeting has yet to be set, but that the talks will focus on specific city housing safety ordinances and whether negligently violating those ordinances rises to the level of manslaughter.

“Is that something that amounts to manslaughter or doesn’t amount to manslaughter? That negligence would have to be gross, or a huge deviation, from what a reasonable person would do,” Nichols said.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, whose office is prosecuting the case against Nisbet jointly with the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, would not comment on the details of the ongoing discussions but confirmed Tuesday the two sides would meet for another round of negotiations.

“We’re still in discussions. This is a complicated, sensitive case,” Marchese said.

District Attorney Stephanie Anderson said Tuesday that at the start of the week she felt discussions had reached an impasse and that the next step would be to present the case to the grand jury to seek an indictment against Nisbet. But she said the sides agreed Tuesday to meet one last time.

“I think we’ve had enough meetings,” Anderson said. “(Nichols) is trying to litigate the case now, really, with us before we make a charging decision.”

Nisbet has not yet been charged with any crime, but the families of four of the six young people who died have filed lawsuits accusing him of running the Noyes Street building as a rooming house, where residents rented individual rooms from the landlord, and that an emergency exit was impassable. Fire officials have said that none of the smoke detectors in the building was working at the time.

But Nichols said the city never cited Nisbet for any code violations before the fire. City officials have what he called “sovereign immunity” from being charged for criminal negligence in the case.

“We’re trying to hone it down to what are the alleged code violations,” Nichols said.

Nichols said the only complaint filed against Nisbet related to the Noyes Street property prior to the fire was for trash outside the building.

“Nobody ever complained about fire detectors or smoke detectors to Greg (Nisbet), and nobody ever complained about a fire or smoke detector to the city. Nobody complained about a means of egress. Nobody ever complained about anything except garbage,” he said.

Nichols said he plans to make a presentation to prosecutors, going through city housing ordinances to see what penalties are applicable, from code violations to manslaughter.

“It’s not a case that anyone wants to see go to trial. That would be very traumatic to the victims’ families and Mr. Nisbet as well,” he said.

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