Demolition contractor Griffin Campbell will remain in prison pending trial in last June's disastrous Center City building collapse, a Philadelphia judge ruled Friday.
Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner said the Pennsylvania Constitution did not give him the discretion to grant the bail motion filed by Campbell's attorney, William D. Hobson.
The state constitution permits bail for all crimes except where the possible penalty is death or life in prison.
Although Campbell, 50, is charged with six counts of third-degree murder, state sentencing law includes a provision for mandatory life in prison without parole for someone convicted of two or more counts of third-degree murder.
"It seems I am bound by the rules," Lerner told Hobson.
Hobson asked Lerner to approve releasing Campbell on a rigidly controlled program of electronic house arrest. He said it could be two more years before the case comes to trial and Campbell's imprisonment makes it difficult for them to meet and review the voluminous evidence in the case.
Hobson presented 17 people, including Campbell's mother and stepfather, wife and daughter, and other relatives and friends to show the contractor has ties to the community and would not flee.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Selber argued that Campbell was simply not eligible for bail.
"We're talking about six people dead and 13 injured," Selber said.
Campbell and Sean Benschop, 43, an excavator operator, are the only people criminally charged thus far in the June 5, 2013, collapse of an unsupported four-story wall that fell and crushed the adjoining Salvation Army thrift store at 2136 Market St.
Benschop's attorney, Daine A. Grey Jr., was not part of the bail motion.
Benschop, like Campbell, is charged with six counts of third-degree murder, conspiracy and related crimes including 13 counts of reckless endangerment involving those injured in the thrift store.
A Philadelphia County grand jury is investigating the collapse and possible charges against others.
Hobson told Lerner he will file a motion with Common Pleas Court Judge Diana L. Anhalt, the grand jury's supervising judge, asking her to order the District Attorney's Office to provide more "discovery," or evidence, currently sealed with the grand jury, to help him prepare Campbell's defense.
That could be a difficult motion to win. Under grand jury rules, defense attorneys don't receive all the discovery until 60 days before trial and judges have been reluctant make exceptions.
Selber replied that her office has already provided Hobson "with all the evidence we have used to prosecute this case."
Pointing to the cardboard box of documents he received from the prosecutor, Hobson noted that discovery in the civil lawsuits filed about the collapse have already generated 60,000 documents and lawyers are preparing to take sworn depositions from 40 witnesses.