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Contractor Guilty in Philly Collapse

Thursday, October 22, 2015

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A jury in Philadelphia has convicted a contractor of involuntary manslaughter in a 2013 building collapse that killed six and injured 13.

Griffin Campbell, 51, was found guilty Monday (Oct. 19) in Common Pleas Court after a three-week-long trial, authorities announced.

He is tentatively scheduled for sentencing Jan. 8, 2016, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office reported.

The jury acquitted Campbell of six counts of third-degree murder and a conspiracy charge, according to reports.

In addition, the contractor was found guilty of 13 counts of reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, and causing a catastrophe.

His sentence could be “significant,” prosecutors say, noting that each involuntary manslaughter count carries up to 5 years in prison, reports relate.

“No verdict can replace the lives that were lost on that June morning, but I hope today’s verdict brings more closure and healing to the friends and families of those who were injured and lost their lives,” Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams said in a statement.

‘Center of Culpability’

Prosecutors had accused Campbell of being at the “center of culpability” for the June 5, 2013 collapse.

That day, a four-story building being demolished toppled onto an adjacent two-story Salvation Army thrift store killing and injuring shoppers and employees inside.

Philadelphia DA
Phila.gov

“No verdict can replace the lives that were lost on that June morning, but I hope today’s verdict brings more closure and healing to the friends and families of those who were injured and lost their lives,” Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams said in a statement.

Killed in the collapse were Juanita Harmon, Roseline Conteh, Mary Simpson, Kimberly Finnegan, Ann Bryan and Borbor Davis. One survivor, pinned in the wreckage for 12 hours, lost both legs.

Campbell had been the general contractor on the job. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations at the site, Campbell put in place a demolition plan that left the four-story masonry wall unsupported above the Salvation Army building.

Authorities said Campbell had removed the support beams so he could sell them for salvage.

The case was described as “complicated and unique” full of “expert testimony, engineering concepts and powerful witness testimony,” according to Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Selber.

Campbell’s attorney William D. Hobson told media outlets the trial had been a “tough battle” and he hoped for a fair sentence.

Operator Plea

For his role in the collapse, Campbell’s equipment operator, Sean Benschop, 44, pleaded guilty to six counts of involuntary manslaughter in July. His sentencing was postponed until after Campbell’s trial.

Benschop’s plea arrangement means the operator will serve no more than 20 years behind bars, prosecutors note.

Campbell refused a similar plea deal before his trial.

Civil Case Continues

While the verdict against Campbell closes the criminal book on the collapse, a civil lawsuit against Campbell, Benschop, the owner of the building Richard Basciano, and his architect, is ongoing.

The civil trial, brought by those injured and representatives of those killed, is scheduled to begin Sept. 6, 2016.

   

Tagged categories: Building materials; Construction; Criminal acts; Demolition; Ethics; Fatalities; Health and safety; Laws and litigation

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