The owner of a Portland apartment building where six people died in a fire in 2014 will remain free while his lawyers appeal his conviction and three-month jail sentence for a code violation in the building.

Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren on Monday rejected Gregory Nisbet’s bid for either a new trial or dismissal of the charge against him.

Nisbet was allowed to delay reporting for jail while that motion was under consideration and Warren has now approved a motion by Nisbet’s lawyers to allow their client to stay out of jail while they pursue an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

If Warren had not granted that motion, Nisbet would have had to report to jail Thursday.

His lawyers sought a new trial or dismissal of the charge against him because prosecutors failed to quickly turn over a 2013 memo from the State Fire Marshal’s Office that was issued a year before the fire. The memo clarified the rules for counting a window as a secondary way out for tenants in a fire.

Nisbet’s lawyers did not argue that the small third-floor window on the Noyes Street house met the standard outlined in the memo, but said prosecutors should have turned over the document sooner to defense lawyers.


Warren ruled that the memo and the timing of turning it over to defense lawyers was not a serious enough violation of evidence rules to cast doubt on the guilty verdict he handed down in October.

After the trial, Warren acquitted Nisbet on six manslaughter charges. The judge said Nisbet failed to maintain the building and inspect smoke detectors, but that prosecutors didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victims would have survived if he had taken steps to keep the building in better shape.

Nisbet’s lawyers plan to appeal the verdict and the sentence – it’s unusual for a code violation to lead to jail time. They also may appeal Warren’s rejection of the bid for a new trial or dismissal.

Decision on the appeals are not likely for months.

The Noyes Street fire on Nov. 1, 2014, was the deadliest in Portland in decades. It started accidentally in a cigarette butt receptacle on the porch, but the building did not have working smoke detectors or proper emergency exits.

The victims were Nicole “Nikki” Finlay, 26; David Bragdon Jr., 27; Ashley Thomas, 29; Maelisha Jackson, 23, of Topsham; Steven Summers, 29, of Rockland; and Christopher Conlee, 25, of Portland. Bradgon, Finlay and Thomas were tenants, and Jackson, Summers and Conlee were visiting the house for a Halloween party. The blaze destroyed the duplex and prompted Portland to overhaul its methods for regulating apartment buildings in the city.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at:

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