Defense: contractor in building collapse was a small fry


The lawyer representing a contractor accused of murder in the June 2013 building collapse that killed six people said his client is a patsy.

“His skill set is minimal,” attorney William Hobson told jurors during opening arguments in the trial of Griffin Campbell. “Griff’s just a working guy.”

Campbell, 51, a demolition contractor from North Philadelphia oversaw the demolition of several buildings on the 2100 block of Market Street, prosecutors say..

They contend that the collapse was caused by a callous indifference to safety, one that sparked multiple warnings of pending disaster.

RELATED: Collapse workers are being scapegoated

“This wasn’t an accident, and this wasn’t bad luck,” said assistant district attorney Jennifer Selber.

Selber told jurors that Campbell engaged in a construction technique that left an unsupported, four-story wall looming over the top of the one-story Salvation Army Store below. It was so dangerous, Selber said, that a strong gust of wind could have knocked it down.

But Hobson said that Campbell worked under the project’s architect, Plato A. Marinakos, Jr. who is expected to testify for prosecutors under a grant of immunity.

“You should not believe one word from Plato Marinakos,” Hobson told jurors.

Marinakos, along with the building’s owner Richard Basciano, were the ones who had the power to stop demolition.

“Griffin Campbell Construction is a small company,” Hobson said. “How many employees does he have? Let’s see. On any given day, he shows up at a job site and he makes some calls. It could be 3, 4, or 5

Campbell and equipment operator Sean Benschop, 44, were the only people criminally charged in the collapse, which also injured 12 people.

Benschop pled 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 that Benschop accepted.

Bricks and lumber from the century-old building fell onto the neighboring Salvation Army thrift store, killing four shoppers and two workers. About a dozen others were injured, including a woman who was trapped in rubble for more than 12 hours and had to have both legs amputated.

A few days after the collapse, the city inspector who had reported no problems on the job site fatally shot himself in the chest. While officials concluded the inspector was not responsible for the collapse, he left a video message for his wife and young son saying he “should have been more diligent” in overseeing the project.

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