Portland landlord sentenced to 90 days in jail, fined $1,000, for deadly fire

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PORTLAND — Gregory Nisbet, owner of the building where the deadliest city fire in 50 years killed six people, was sentenced Thursday to 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.

“Jail time is called for here,” Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren told a crowded courtroom that included friends and family of the six victims.

The sentencing came after Warren found Nisbet, 51, of 124 Noyes St., guilty Oct. 21 of allowing a Class E code violation on the third floor of the home. Warren acquitted Nisbet on six charges of Class A manslaughter and three other code violations stemming from the Nov. 1, 2014, fire at 20-24 Noyes St.

Before the sentencing, Nisbet addressed the court, and said he would accept whatever Warren decided.

“I can only imagine the pain and hell you go through each day. I myself cry and mourn each day,” Nisbet told the victims’ relatives and friends.

Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Bud Ellis asked for the maximum 180-day jail sentence, while Nisbet’s attorney, Matthew Nichols, said no jail time was warranted.

The code violation stemmed from windows that were too small for escape in the third-floor room where three of the six victims died.

“What elevates this … is that the code violation on the third floor that deprived the three people who were there some chance of getting out of the building,” Warren said.

The fire killed tenants David Bragdon Jr, 29; Nichole Finlay, 26, and Ashley Thomas, 29. Visitors Christopher Conlee, 25; Maelisha Jackson, 26, and Steven Summers, 29, also died in the blaze.

All but Summers died during the fire of smoke inhalation, according to the state Office of the Medical Examiner. Summers died Nov. 4, 2014, at Massachusetts General Hospital from burns he received while escaping the fire.

The state fire marshal determined the fire was accidental; it began on the front porch because of improperly disposed of smoking materials, and spread because of an open front door.

Nisbet had also faced code violations due to a blocked second-floor stairway and the lack of working smoke detectors in the home.

It was the deadliest fire in Portland history since a December 1963 fire killed six children in a home on Gilman Street in the city’s West End.

The sentence was stayed 21 days, so that Nisbet can appeal. Nichols said his client would weigh his options.

Nisbet also faces civil lawsuits filed by the victims’ families. They are expected to be combined and may seek at least $11 million in damages.

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

 David Harry / The Forecaster

Portland landlord Gregory Nisbet speaks Dec. 1 in Cumberland County Superior Court before being sentenced to 90 days in jail for the Nov. 1, 2014, fire that killed six people at 20-24 Noyes St.

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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.