$1.55 million bail set for Philadelphia collapse site machine operator

 Sean Benschop, with red jacket over his head, is shown on June 8 walking with investigators as he arrives at the Philadelphia Police Department's Central Detectives Division in Center City Philadelphia. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

Sean Benschop, with red jacket over his head, is shown on June 8 walking with investigators as he arrives at the Philadelphia Police Department's Central Detectives Division in Center City Philadelphia. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

The backhoe operator charged in connection with this month’s deadly building collapse in Center City Philadelphia is now eligible to be released from jail. A city judge Wednesday set bail for Sean Benschop at $1.55 million. He was previously being held without bail on six charges of involuntary manslaughter.

“Bail should have been granted in the first place,” said Daine Grey, Benschop’s attorney after his client’s preliminary hearing was delayed. “Mr. Benschop is not a flight risk. A flight risk doesn’t turn himself in immediately after learning there’s a warrant out for his arrest.”

The total reflects the addition of $900,000 in bail on the manslaughter charges. A bail of $650,000 was already set for the 13 counts of reckless endangerment that Benschop also faces.

Benschop, who did not appear in court, would need to lay out at least 10 percent of the adjusted total to be released.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Selber, who is prosecuting the case, argued against giving Benschop the option. Given his criminal history — which includes the use of aliases and conflicting addresses and birth dates — she said he’s a flight risk.

“All of these things make a person more difficult to track if they are released,” she said.

Despite her displeasure with Wednesday’s ruling, Selber acknowledged that the new bail amount is “extremely high” for a case without murder charges.

Wednesday’s preliminary hearing has been rescheduled for Sept. 17.

On June 5, a portion of a four-story building at 22nd and Market streets collapsed onto a Salvation Army thrift store, killing six and injuring 13 more.

Benschop was operating a backhoe that day as part of an ongoing demolition process.

City officials have said that a toxicology report showed evidence of Benschop having marijuana in his system.

Following Wednesday’s court appearance, Grey said his client is a “scapegoat” and that the project’s general contractor, Griffin Campbell, is to blame.

“He didn’t cause the collapse of the building. All he did was follow directions, and nothing that he did caused the collapse of the building that day,” he said.

Benschop’s case gets underway as a grand jury, convened by the District Attorney’s Office, investigates the fatal collapse.

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