Sean Benschop, 42, was operating a backhoe on the site of Wednesday's deadly building collapse. Sources say blood and urine tests found illegal drugs and prescription narcotics in his system.
Sean Benschop, the man accused of being on drugs while operating heavy machinery in the deadly Center City building collapse, will remain behind bars for the time being. But the man's attorney expects his client to be "vindicated" soon.
Benschop, a.k.a. Kary Roberts, faces six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of reckless endangerment in the June 5 incident at 22nd and Market Streets in Center City Philadelphia that killed six and injured 13 others, some severely.
A judge denied Benschop's request to have his bail reduced from $1.6 million during a brief preliminary hearing at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center on Tuesday morning.
"We're incredibly disappointed we weren't able to get Sean's bail decreased," Benschop's attorney Daine Grey said following the hearing. "We think it's still incredibly high for someone we believe is completely innocent."
The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office says the demolition contractor was high on marijuana and painkillers while using a backhoe to demolish a building next door to the Salvation Army Thrift Shop. During that demolition, a four-story brick wall collapsed burying the store and people inside.
Grey says the prosecution will not be able to prove Benschop was under the influence at the time of the collapse and expects his client to be "vindicated sometime in the near future." He may also appeal the denial of bail reduction.
"The bail issue was thoroughly flushed out at the last hearing,” said prosecutor Jennifer Selber outside the courtroom. “The Commonwealth spoke to the seriousness of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, his failures to appear, his citizen status and for all those reason the judge set bail at $1.6 million."
Prosecutors in the past have argued that Benschop is a flight risk. They say he was born in Guyana, is not a U.S. citizen and has used numerous aliases.
Benschop was brought down to the courthouse for the hearing, but was never brought before the judge because the hearing was so quick.
Judge Charles Hayden also granted a request by both the prosecution and defense to continue the hearing until December 10.
A grand jury is investigating whether anyone besides Benschop should be charged. Grey says his client was fit to work and calls his client a scapegoat.
"He took himself to the hospital and the hospital reported that he had some marijuana in his system. Because he had some marijuana in his system, he was the person to point the finger at," Grey said. "They haven't pointed the finger at anybody else, but they needed a person to point the finger at, at that point."
Grey argues the marijuana could have still shown up on a drug test for 30 to 90 days and, at the time of it's effects were long since worn off.
Attorney Robert Mongeluzzi, who is handling several civil lawsuits related to the building collapse, also plans to hold a case update at 5 p.m. Tuesday. NBC10.com will carry that press conference live.