Bail unchanged for backhoe operator in Philly building collapse

 Make-shift memorials and an empty lot mark the site of the four-story building collapse on 22nd and Market Streets in Philadelphia.  (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

Make-shift memorials and an empty lot mark the site of the four-story building collapse on 22nd and Market Streets in Philadelphia. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

A Philadelphia judge today denied a defense request to reduce bail for the backhoe operator charged in connection with June’s deadly building collapse in Center City.

Bail for Sean Benschop still stands at nearly $1.6 million.

 

“We still think it’s incredibly high for someone who we believe is completely innocent. We do believe Sean will be vindicated sometime in the near future,” said Benschop’s lawyer, Daine Grey.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Selber, who is prosecuting the case, maintained that Benschop is a flight risk given the severity of the charges he faces and his criminal history, among other things.

Benschop, 42, is charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person for his alleged role in the collapse of a four-story building being demolished at 22nd and Market streets.

Tuesday’s preliminary hearing was rescheduled to Dec. 10 following a joint request by Grey and Selber.  Following the proceedings, Grey told reporters that the delay was “strategically in our favor.”

“I have worked with a number of other attorneys on the civil side and been involved in that investigation and based upon the information that I’ve received, the experts that I’ve talked to, the information that I’ve reviewed, I do not believe Sean Benschop is guilty in any way shape or form,” said Grey.

Benschop was allegedly under the influence of marijuana on June 5, the day of the collapse.

Grey said the Commonwealth will have a tough time proving his client was high at the time. Selber was confused by the claim.

“We had evidence enough to charge and we’ll have evidence enough to present at the preliminary hearing,” she said.

A grand jury investigation into the building collapse, convened by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, is ongoing.

More than a dozen civil suits have been filed in connection to the collapse that claimed six lives and injured 13 more.

In August, a judge delayed the start of the majority of those suits for nine months.

Lawyers representing Griffin T. Campbell, the contractor hired to demolish the building, requested the delay to avoid potential self-incrimination.

 

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