February 24, 2013
Two images emerged Friday of Griffin Campbell: greedy demolition contractor willing to sacrifice public safety to maximize the salvage value of the four-story building that flattened an adjacent Salvation Army store, or scapegoat taking the full weight of the tragedy that killed six people and injured 13.
In his closing before a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury, defense lawyer William D. Hobson described Campbell as a simple North Philadelphia working man who was used by a sophisticated Ivy League-educated architect on the payroll of the wealthy and made the fall guy by prosecutors.
Hobson called on the jury to acquit Campbell, who is charged with six counts of third-degree murder - one for each person killed in the 2013 Center City collapse of the four-story building.
If the jury finds the 51-year-old Campbell guilty of more than one murder count, he faces a sentence of life in prison without parole. Campbell also is charged with 12 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of aggravated assault for the 13 people injured, including a woman trapped 13 hours in the rubble whose legs had to be amputated.
Campbell was the only person to face trial in the collapse.
Sean Benschop, 44, of North Philadelphia, who operated the 36,000-pound excavator, was charged with Campbell but in July pleaded guilty to six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 12 counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of aggravated assault in a deal for no more than 20 years in prison.
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