PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Last month’s conviction of the demolition contractor in the deadly 2013 Market Street building collapse put an end to the criminal trial, but a civil case has yet to be argued against many more people.
The attention shifted to a City Hall Courtroom and depositions.READ MORE: WATCH LIVE: Delaware Gov. John Carney, State Officials To Provide COVID-19 Update
The only two who faced criminal charges were demolition contractor Griffin Campbell, who went to trial, and his heavy equipment operator, Sean Benschop, who pleaded guilty.
In five hours of deliberations, a jury found Campbell guilty on six counts of involuntary manslaughter. Under Benschop’s plea arrangement to the same charges, he will serve no more than 20-years in prison.
A wider net is cast in the civil case. Twenty lawsuits were filed, all of which have been consolidated into one. Eighteen people or entities are named, including the building owner Richard Basciano, architect Plato Marinakos, Campbell, Benschop and the Salvation Army.
Lawyers on the other side represent six people who died and 13 who were injured.
Campbell’s lawyer, Bryan Werley, argued his client should not be deposed or testify in the civil proceedings – at least until an appeal runs its course – because doing so would violate Campbell’s 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
“Mr. Campbell intends to appeal his criminal trial. We argued he still has a 5th amendment right, even though he testified at his criminal trial. He has that right at other proceedings and intended to assert it.”READ MORE: Spruce Street Harbor Park To Reopen For Summer On May 26
Campbell’s lawyer at his criminal trial, William Hobson, says the upcoming deposition would allow civil lawyers to probe him beyond the scope of his criminal trial.
“These very skilled attorneys, for five days, could take him to other areas that were not covered in my direct or their cross.”
One of the plaintiff civil lawyers, Robert Mongeluzzi, argued Campbell waived his 5th amendment rights when he took the stand in his own defense. He says it would be unfair to the civil victims and their families to allow Campbell to skip testifying.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. Appellate issues could be litigated for years.”
Mongeluzzi says you can’t delay indefinitely a civil claim while someone “cloaks” themselves in the 5th amendment.
Judge Mark Bernstein ordered Campbell and Benschop to appear for their depositions in mid-January. Courtroom observers say the order doesn’t strip Campbell of his rights – if his side objects to a question and he takes the fifth, the judge will rule whether it’s a valid assertion.MORE NEWS: Pennsylvania Primary 2021: All Eyes On Race For Philadelphia District Attorney
Lawyers expect to file papers in the case by April, with the civil trial expected to take place next September.