Mixed Verdict for Market Street Collapse Contractor

A Philadelphia jury decided demolition contractor Griffin Campbell was guilty of involuntary manslaughter – but not murder – in the deadly 2013 Center City building collapse that killed six and injured 13 others.

Griffin Campbell, 51, was charged with six counts of third-degree murder and related offenses in connection with the collapse. The case went to the jury Friday afternoon.

Jurors returned Monday morning and began deliberating about 9:30 a.m. They returned a verdict after lunch, finding Campbell guilty on all six counts of involuntary manslaughter, and not guilty on third-degree murder charges.

In the June 5, 2013 collapse, an unsupported four-story wall of a building being demolished at 22nd and Market streets tumbled onto a Salvation Army thrift shop below.

Prosecutors alleged Campbell was more concerned about money than safety in the demolition and ordered the risky removal of the ill-fated wall.

Among the injured was Mariya Plekan, a Ukrainian immigrant who spent 13 hours buried under the rubble before rescuers found and freed her. Both of Plekan's legs had to be amputated because her injuries were so severe.

The people killed in the collapse were Roseline Conteh, 52, Borbor Davis, 68, Kimberly Finnegan, 35, Juanita Harmon, 75, Mary Simpson, 24 and Anne Bryan, 24, the daughter of city treasurer Nancy Winkler.

"For the rest of our lives we have to live without our daughter Anne," Winkler and husband Jay Bryan said in a statement, adding the Campbell trial was just about one person's responsibility. "We now focus on pursuing justice in the civil trial...where the fault of everyone involved, not just one individual, will be determined." That trial is set to start Sept. 6, 2016.

More important to the civil case than Campbell's verdict is the evidence presented during his trial, said Attorney Bob Mongeluzzi, whose firm represents a majority of victims.

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"Evidence we saw in the courtroom -- which was without question -- that the site was imminently dangerous on June 2 (three days before collapse). Multiple people knew and should have known about the danger and did nothing to keep it from happening," Mongeluzzi said.

Campbell was the contractor on the demolition. He and Sean Benschop, who was operating an excavator at the site at the time of the collapse, were charged in its wake with murder and related charges. Campbell's lawyer has insisted that his client is being made a scapegoat in the collapse and that Plato Marinakos, an architect who obtained the demolition permits for the site in the months before the collapse, should be held accountable.

Neither Marinakos nor Richard Basciano, the building owner who took Campbell's cut-rate bid for the job, has been charged.

Benschop pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges in the case and testified against Campbell during the two-week trial.

Benschop said he should have "walked away" from the site when Campbell refused to take the wall down safely by hand. But he said he needed to feed his family.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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