Sean Benschop — the excavator operator charged in connection with the 2013 deadly building collapse in Center City Philadelphia — has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He was helping demolish a building on Market Street when it collapsed onto the Salvation Army Thrift store, killing six, injuring 13.
Under the deal, entered in court Tuesday morning, Benschop, 44, will also serve time for aggravated assault, conspiracy, causing a catastrophe and recklessly endangering another person.
“He knew that the wall that ultimately fell was dangerous. He knew how it should be done and he takes responsibility because he could have walked away from the job site and he didn’t,” said Bill Davis, Benschop’s lawyer.
Benschop was part of a crew demolishing a four-story building at 22nd and Market Streets when a freestanding wall pancaked onto and crushed the thrift store next door.
Prosecutors maintain that the building should have been taken down “by hand, floor by floor, top to bottom.”
“We thought it was a fair resolution to the case,” said Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Selber. “He took responsibility for his share of the criminal burden.”
Benschop will not serve more than 20 years in prison once sentenced. He had faced life in prison if convicted of third degree murder.
General contractor Griffin Campbell, Benschop’s co-defendant, is proceeding with his trial. Jury selection is scheduled to start Sept. 21.
“My guy is not guilty of any crimes. He’s not criminally culpable,” said Campbell’s attorney Bill Hobson.
Selber said Benschop has agreed to testify at Campbell’s trial, though prosecutors have not yet decided if they will use him as a witness.
Campbell is charged with third degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, aggravated assault, causing a catastrophe and recklessly endangering another person.
At a preliminary hearing in February, Plato Marinakos, the architect and permit expediter who hired Griffin Campbell, testified that he stopped by the site about 6 p.m. the night before the collapse and saw the unsupported wall.
And that Campbell told him he would d take care of the wall.
Marinakos was granted immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for being a witness in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s ongoing grand jury investigation of the collapse.
On Tuesday, Selber said others could still be charged.