A Pennsylvania jury has convicted demolition contractor Griffin Campbell of six counts of involuntary manslaughter for his role in a 2013 Philadelphia building collapse that killed six people and injured 13 others when a wall his company was demolishing fell onto a Salvation Army thrift store, ABC News reported.
The jury also found him guilty of aggravated assault and risking a catastrophe. He could now face more than 20 years in prison if the charges are run consecutively, but he has not yet been sentenced.
Prosecutors allege that Campbell’s bid for the demolition project was so low that it led him to cut corners on safety, including removing and selling support beams and joists for salvage while the four-story walls were still in place.
Campbell’s subcontractor, Sean Benschop, who testified at Campbell’s trial, previously pleaded guilty to six counts of involuntary manslaughter and faces 10 to 20 years in prison. Benschop was operating the piece of heavy equipment that caused the collapse.
Campbell, who previously rejected a plea deal when prosecutors initially charged him with third-degree murder, maintains that the building owner’s insistence on a quick project turnaround is to blame for the collapse, ABC reported.
However, the fact that Campbell removed critical supports from the building prior to its demolition, leaving the walls unstable and ripe for an accident, showed the disregard he had for those working on the site, as well as those in close proximity, prosecutors said.
Benschop admitted in court that when he saw the condition of the building, he should have walked away, or, at the very least, demolished the wall by hand. Campbell said the architect overseeing the project called the shots and should shoulder some responsibility. A city inspector who had visited the site sometime prior to the collapse killed himself just days after the incident.
Although the criminal trial is over, the victims' families have filed civil lawsuits against the owner, Richard Basciano, the Salvation Army, Campbell and others.