Contractor Convicted in Building Collapse Case
This post has been updated to include quotes from District Attorney Seth Williams, Nancy Winkler and Jay Bryan, and Robert J. Mongeluzzi.
The Common Pleas Court jury considering the case of Griffin Campell — the contractor hired to demolish the building next to the Salvation Army thrift store on 22nd and Market — may have agreed, at least in part, with what his defense attorneys contended: that he was more of a pawn than a bad actor when it came to the building collapse in June 2013.
Campbell was on trial for six counts of third-degree murder, but has been convicted of six counts of involuntary manslaughter instead, according to media reports, which means he will not go to prison for life. The jury also convicted Campbell on 13 counts of Recklessly Endangering Another Person, one count of Causing a Catastrophe and one count of Aggravated Assault, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. He will be sentenced in January.
Campbell was one of three individuals who faced criminal charges in relation to the building collapse, which resulted in six fatalities and 13 injured, including Mariya Plekan, whose legs had to be amputated after she was trapped for hours beneath the rubble. The building’s architect, Plato Marinakos Jr., was granted immunity in exchange for testimony. The operator of the excavator that caused the wall to cave in, Sean Benschop, made a plea deal rather than go to trial.
Campbell’s attorneys contended throughout that he was innocent of the murder charges because he had been pushed to do what he did by Marinakos, and said the collapse of the wall was a tragic accident. The prosecution said they’d show emails that indicated that Campbell, not Marinakos, was in charge of the job site. The jury considered video footage and still photos of the demolition during their deliberations, which took less than one day. Of the conviction, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said: “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. On behalf of the men and women of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, we offer our heartfelt condolences with the hopes that today’s verdict will be a powerful reminder that jobsite safety is paramount and if someone breaks the law like Griffin Campbell and Sean Benschop did, they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
The parents of one of the victims, Anne Bryan, released a statement today through their attorney, Robert J. Mongeluzzi: “We accept the jury’s verdict and thank them for their hard work. We also thank the prosecutors, Jennifer Selber and Ed Cameron, and Judge Bronson. This criminal trial focused on the responsibility of just one person, Griffin Campbell. For the rest of our lives we have to live without our daughter Anne. So we will not stop fighting for justice in her name – and for all the victims – and that means holding everyone responsible fully accountable. We now focus on pursuing justice in the civil trial – scheduled to start September 6, 2016 – where the fault of everyone involved, not just one individual, will be determined.”
Mongeluzzi also emphasized the civil trial in his post-verdict statement: “As the testimony in the criminal trial [of Campbell] established, this collapse was caused by the actions and inactions of many people and companies. There was an avalanche of evidence introduced at the criminal trial that the building being demolished was ‘imminently dangerous’ by at least Sunday June 2, 2013, three days before the collapse. We look forward to the civil trial, now scheduled for September 2016, where a jury, for the first time, will hear evidence regarding the responsibility of all the companies and people who caused this collapse.”
Thus far, the owner of the property, Richard Basciano, who hired Campbell for the job, has not faced any charges.
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