Contractor charged in deaths of six in Philly building collapse rejects plea deal

     The collapse site as seen across 22nd Street. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY file photo)

    The collapse site as seen across 22nd Street. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY file photo)

    The demolition contractor charged with murder in connection with the 2013 Market Street building collapse that killed six people in Center City has rejected a plea deal.

    Contractor Griffin Campbell’s trial on six counts of third-degree murder and other charges will begin next week in Common Pleas Court.

    Campbell instructed his demolition team to take shortcuts to expedite the job, prosecutors said, an alleged order that resulted in the four-story building toppling on a nearby Salvation Army thrift store, crushing six people to death.

    Additionally, Campbell was hoping to salvage valuable pieces of the building, such as wooden floors and joists, to later sell for a profit, according to prosecutors. That technique, prosecutors say, contributed to the building’s tumbling.

    Campbell’s attorney, William Hobson, has described his client as a scapegoat. He’s expected to argue that the demolished building’s owner, who has been depicted as a negligent slumlord, is the one to blame for the collapse.

    “My mission in life is to present all the facts to a jury, which we’ll do after the pope leaves, and let the jury be the ultimate fact-finders, resolve whether my client is criminally culpable,” Hobson said.

    If convicted on all charges, Campbell could face life in prison.

    One of Campbell’s excavator operators, Sean Benschop, has taken a deal, pleading guilty to multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter. He could be in prison for 10 to 20 years. A judge is expected to sentence Benschop after his boss’s trial.

    According to Hobson, prosecutors offered his client the same plea deal as Benschop, but he decided to turn it down, instead pleading not guilty to all charges.

    The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office declined to comment. 

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