Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers

Contractor Receives Murder Charges Following Philadelphia Building Collapse

In June of this year, what should have been a standard building demolition went horribly awry, killing six victims and injuring 14. Now, some six months later, summer has turned to winter, and multiple murder charges have been brought against contractor Griffin Campbell, as well as mechanical operator Sean Benschop. Bereft family members of the victims have filed lawsuits against developers as the pain of that tragic day continues to plague survivors.

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Six Killed in Unsafe Demolition

The Salvation Army is best known for its offbeat wares, deals on clothing, and the ever-present, bell-ringing Santas which herald the arrival of the holiday season on street corners across America. But in on June 6th, a popular Salvation Army store located near the bustling corner of 22nd and Market Streets in Center City, Philadelphia became representative of something much darker than second-hand sweaters.

The Salvation Army itself was not involved in any plans for construction. Rather, its neighboring building, owned by Richard Basciano (who holds the dubious title of once being Times Square’s “Pornography King”), was in the process of being demolished — when everything went terribly wrong.

Innocent shoppers perusing the aisles of the downtown Salvation Army were trapped inside when a 40-foot-tall brick wall from the demolition site next door collapsed on the roof of the high-traffic thrift store. Tragically, despite the best efforts of rescue workers and firefighters, who continued clearing rubble throughout the day and into the next, six people were killed. 13 more were injured.

And now, charges have been filed.

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Six Counts of Murder, Assorted Charges

Two men have borne the brunt of the terrible incident’s legal consequences: Sean Benschop, and Griffin Campbell.

Benschop was the operator of an excavator — which, on average, weigh in at at least 50,000 pounds. After it was discovered that he was operating the potentially dangerous and massively heavy machine under the influence of marijuana and painkillers, he was charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter.

But Benschop isn’t the man at the heart of the case. That would be Griffin Campbell, contractor, whom Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams describes as being “at the center of culpability for the collapse.”

The night before the collapse, the project’s architect, Plato Marinakos, advised Campbell that the remains of the partially gutted building were structurally unsound, and that providing wall bracing was recommended. The wall which Marinakos warned of — weakened by a lack of scaffolding, and by Campbell’s removal of crucial joists to resell as scrap — was the same wall which killed six Philadelphians and hurt over a dozen others the very next morning.

Now, Campbell has been hit with a laundry list of criminal charges: 6 counts of 3rd Degree murder; 6 counts of involuntary manslaughter, like Benschop; 13 counts of reckless endangerment; risking a catastrophe; and criminal conspiracy charges. Prosecutors say Campbell, who chose the demolition method for the site, cut corners and slashed safety measures in an effort to reduce costs.

Family members of the deceased aren’t satisfied. Some have filed lawsuits against Basciano, as well as Campbell and Benschop; and while additional attorneys hope to file claims against Philadelphia itself, the prognosis for such suits has traditionally been dim.

Murder is one of the most serious charges there is.  If you or a loved one is facing murder charges, it is critical that you contact our Allentown criminal defense lawyers immediately for help.  You can also reach us by phone at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania.