Judge delays sentencing of landlord in Portland fire

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PORTLAND — A misunderstanding about who will be allowed to speak led to a postponement Tuesday in the sentencing of landlord Gregory Nisbet in Cumberland County Superior Court.

Justice Thomas Warren rescheduled the sentencing hearing to 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, in the Newbury Street courthouse.

Nisbet was convicted Oct. 21 of code violations found after the Nov. 1, 2014, fire that killed six people at 20-24 Noyes St. He faces up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Warren acquitted Nisbet of six Class A counts of manslaughter, and three additional code violations. Nisbet had waived his right to a jury trial.

The conviction for having improper windows in a third-floor bedroom where two tenants died would have allowed only those families to make victim impact statements. But Warren said he also wants to allow others affected by the fire to speak, as well as those who would speak in defense of Nisbet’s character.

The Noyes Street fire, ruled accidental by the state fire marshal’s office, was the deadliest in the city in more than 50 years. It began on the front porch after smoking materials were improperly discarded, and spread indoors when the front door was opened.

Five of the six victims – David Bragdon Jr., 27; Ashley Thomas, 29; Nicole Finlay, 26; Maelisha Jackson, 23; and Chris Conlee, 25 – died at the scene of smoke inhalation. Bragdon, Thomas and Finlay were tenants. Jackson and Conlee were visitors, as was Steven Summers, 29, who died several days later at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The sentencing will end the criminal investigation. Nisbet also faces civil lawsuits seeking at least $11 million, filed by relatives of the fire victims.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Gregory Nisbet, right, sits with his attorneys Matthew Nichols and Sarah Churchill in Cumberland County Superior Court on Nov. 29.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.