Lawyer Who Battled Basciano: “His Pitch Was That He Was Working to Change Things.”

Attorney Steven Wigrizer and Richard Basciano will probably be crossing paths–again.

Basciano is the owner of the building that collapsed and killed six people in the Salvation Army store at 22nd and Market. In 2000, Wigrizer won a $5.25 million settlement on behalf of Judge Berel Caeser’s family. Caeser was killed in 1997 when he was struck by a sign that fell off a building on Broad Street near Pine. The building was owned by the estate of Philadelphia’s most notorious slumlord, Sam Rappaport. Basciano was the executor of Rappaport’s estate.

Before the case was settled, the two men met face to face when Wigrizer deposed Basciano. Wigrizer recalled Basciano as being “personable, forthcoming, and calm.”

“His pitch,” according to Wigrizer, was that he “was working to change things,” as he acknowledged the shortcomings of Rapparport’s approach to property management.

Basciano has frequently been described in the media as the “Times Square Porn King” although to Wigrizer he seemed to be “well dressed and very polished.”

Given that Wigrizer has been asked by one of the victims’ families to get involved, he and Basciano may see each other again, though the building’s owner is just one of many being blamed for the collapse. When asked about the recent lawsuit that listed the Salvation Army as a defendant, Wigrizer replied, “You have to assume that there are facts to support that claim and even more will be brought out as time goes by, or else they would not have been named.”

As for the blame heaped upon the city, Wigrizer noted that it enjoys partial “municipal immunity,” which would present a challenge to plaintiffs’ lawyers. On the other hand, it has already been demonstrated that Philadelphia’s licensing procedure for demolition projects is lax, so Wigrizer didn’t rule out the possibility that the city might also be sued.