The Maine Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of Portland landlord Gregory Nisbet, who was convicted of a code violation after a fire at one of his properties killed six people. He was acquitted of six counts of manslaughter from that fire.
The court ruling notes that the fire began on a porch and proceeded up a stairway, and that bedroom windows in the house were “considerably smaller” than required by codes, and not big enough to serve as an escape method.
Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis says he knows the families of the victims are pleased with the high court ruling, but says it has been a long, arduous process.
"We're hoping this is the end of it," says Ellis. "I'm sure the families are hoping this is the end of it. I know their civil cases have all been settled.
Nisbet's attorney, Luke Rioux, had appealed the conviction, saying Nisbet shouldn't have been held legally responsible for that code violation, in part, because he wasn't given proper notice of it.
“Because the only evidence of notice was that a contractor some seven or eight years prior had told him that the upper floor windows looked small,” said Rious. “He never had any code enforcement officer or any official give him notice.”
Nisbet was sentenced to 90 days of imprisonment in 2016. Rioux says his client will report to serve that sentence in the next few days, although he is still considering filing what's called a "petition for post-conviction review," asking for a chance at a new trial based on the claims that mistakes were made at trial that prejudiced the outcome.