Landlord sentenced for fire that killed 6 seeks new trial

AP News
|
Posted: Dec 20, 2016 7:28 PM

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine landlord sentenced to 90 days in jail after a fire killed six people at one of his properties is requesting a new trial.

A judge sentenced Gregory Nisbet for a code violation on Dec. 1, and his attorney requested the new trial in a court filing dated Monday.

Nisbet owned a Portland apartment house where the deadly fire occurred Nov. 1, 2014. The judge acquitted Nisbet of manslaughter charges but ruled he was guilty of a violation related to inadequate means of escape from third-floor rooms at the house.

The request for a new trial says Nisbet was not aware of evidence that could have changed the outcome of his trial until after his conviction. The evidence is a 2013 state memo about policy regarding windows big enough to be used for escape in existing buildings, according to the court filing.

It says Nisbet might have been able to use the memo to win a not-guilty verdict had it been provided to him "in a timely fashion." He did not discover the memo until after the trial and sentencing, according to the filing.

The residents who died in the fire were Nicole Finlay, David Bragdon Jr., Ashley Thomas, Christopher Conlee and Maelisha Jackson. Steven Summers was hospitalized and died two days later. All of the victims were in their 20s. Several other people were able to escape.

A civil case stemming from the fire still is in the court. Attorney Thomas Hallett, who represents the Summers family, said the request for a new trial will likely delay the civil case. He said he's not surprised by the request, since Nisbet is facing jail time.

The fire was ruled accidental, resulting from improperly discarded smoking materials on a porch.