The Noyes Street fire trial hinges on a key legal definition

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Today, our ongoing coverage of the trial of Gregory Nisbet; a Greenland chef is offering raw lamb during a week of Arctic Council meetings; and apparently a lot of people like “Gilmore Girls.”

What we’re talking about

The Noyes Street duplex that burned down two years ago, killing six young adults, was determined by fire inspectors to be a boarding house, a Portland courtroom heard today.

That assertion is important in the manslaughter trial of landlord Gregory Nisbet, who owned the building and faces as much as 30 years in prison if convicted. The state’s case against him alleges that he failed to meet the fire-safety standards of boarding houses, which are higher than those for a single-family home.

Because some tenants at 20-24 Noyes St. did not have a lease, paid rent separately or had locks on the outside of their doors, fire inspectors determined that the property was a boarding house rather than a family home, the head of the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Inspection and Prevention Division, Richard MacCarthy, testified Wednesday. Conditions varied between the two sides of the duplex.

Nisbet’s lawyers throughout the case have pushed back on this determination, arguing that the fire inspector lacked important facts at the time and didn’t consider a relevant legal definition of a family in federal law and city ordinance.

“Your opinion is only as good as the reliability of the information given to you,” defense attorney  Sarah Churchill told MacCarthy as he sat in the witness box.

If Nisbet is convicted, it would be the first time a Maine landlord has been punished as a criminal in a case of accidental fire. — Jake Bleiberg

In other news

Can I interest you in some raw lamb or a partially cooked beef heart? — I’m all set, personally, but if that’s your thing, a Greenland chef this week is preparing cuisine from his home country at Vinland, in honor of the Arctic Council meetings.

Here’s how Hurricane Matthew is messing with flights from Portland — The Press Herald reports: “Elite Airways issued an advisory Wednesday, canceling its southbound flights on Thursday and Friday and rescheduling those flights for Sunday and Monday.”

‘Gilmore Girls’ fans came from New Hampshire to hang out at a Luke’s Cafe popup — The Netflix promo of the revival of ‘Gilmore Girls’ drew hundreds to the Diamond Street Coffee by Design.

Portland Flea-for-All re-opens tomorrow in the former home of Paul’s Food Center — The vintage shop, formerly located in Bayside, is celebrating its grand opening tomorrow from 4 to 8 p.m. at 585 Congress St. The owners announced in March that they had purchased the building from the family of the original grocery store owner, Paul Trusiani, who died last September. —Kathleen Pierce

The Big Idea

A French Underground Railroad, Moving African Migrants’— The NYT reports:

For all the ways Europe has tried to keep migrants out — whether intercepting them at sea, tightening asylum rules or suspending its system of open borders — they keep coming. The frontier between Italy and France, where the police now intermittently patrol key tollgates and train stations, demonstrates in many ways how those policies keep failing. …

[P]eople like [Cédric] Herrou, who has become the de facto leader of a low-key network of citizen smugglers, are countering police efforts in a quasi-clandestine resistance, angered by what they see as the French government’s inhumane response to the crisis.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.