Developer to stay out of prison during sentence appeal

Medford developer and mortgage broker James Charles Nistler will remain free on bond as he appeals his 19-month prison sentence on assorted fraud, theft and racketeering charges related to an ill-fated real estate development.

Nistler, 80, was unanimously convicted on one count of racketeering, eight counts of securities fraud and eight counts of first-degree aggravated theft in a November jury trial.

Stating it was clear that Nistler "played fast and loose with other people's money," Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ray White in December sentenced Nistler to 17 months on the racketeering charge, 13 to 19 months on the theft charges and 12 months on the fraud charges, but set all the sentences to run concurrently.

Nistler was to report to jail Jan. 24. But Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia on Friday afternoon ruled Nistler will be allowed to remain out on bond pending his appeal.

However, if the Oregon Court of Appeals upholds Nistler's conviction, he must begin serving his sentence, even if he plans to continue his appeal to the state Supreme Court, Mejia also ruled.

Michael Kellington, Nistler's defense attorney, said the case was rife with issues that will be brought up before the Oregon Court of Appeals.

"Mr. Nistler is out on bond primarily because the issues in this case have not been resolved," said Kellington.

Nistler, who was a high-ranking U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development official in the late 1980s and claims to have built more than 800 homes in Jackson County, told the court he was also struggling with health issues.

He has a cyst on his kidney that is large, painful and possibly cancerous, Nistler said.

A financial restitution amount of $304,000 was presented Friday and also will be appealed.

Prosecutor Rachel Bridges argued at trial that Nistler took in $1.2 million from investors purportedly to build houses, but actually spent less than $400,000 of the money on the project.

Nistler was unlicensed and the securities he sold, offering a high rate of return on short-term investments, were unregistered. About a dozen investors lost more than $800,000, she said. Bridges had asked for a 16-year sentence for Nistler, claiming that anything less was an invitation to further crime.

White disagreed, and said during sentencing that he was not convinced Nistler understood he was selling securities.

Reach Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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