Philadelphia contractor convicted of involuntary manslaughter in building collapse

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 19, 2015 6:44 PM

By Katie Reilly

(Reuters) - A jury convicted a Philadelphia contractor of involuntary manslaughter but acquitted him on murder charges for his role in a 2013 demolition that killed six people when it triggered the collapse of a neighboring building, lawyers said.

Griffin Campbell, the contractor responsible for the demolition, was also found guilty of recklessly endangering another person and causing a catastrophe, prosecutors said.

Equipment operator Sean Benschop, 44, the only other person criminally charged in the collapse, pleaded guilty in July to six counts of involuntary manslaughter and other charges. Prosecutors said they would seek a prison sentence not to exceed 10 to 20 years for Benschop, who tested positive for marijuana.

Campbell rejected the same plea offer.

Prosecutors said Campbell cut corners in the demolition, during which bricks and lumber from a century-old building being demolished fell onto a neighboring Salvation Army thrift store, killing four shoppers and two workers.

About a dozen people were injured, including a woman who was trapped in rubble for more than 12 hours and had to have both legs amputated.

"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 Seth Williams said on Monday.

Campbell's attorney, Bill Hobson, said the city of Philadelphia should have taken more responsibility for loose demolition regulations in place at the time.

"I still believe that my client was not competent or capable for the task at hand," said Hobson, who had argued Campbell was a fall guy for more powerful players in the construction project.

Campbell's sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 8. He faces a maximum sentence of 91 years in prison.

(Reporting by Katie Reilly; Editing by Peter Cooney)