Bail set for contractor accused in fatal building collapse

Posted: June 26, 2013

Sean Benschop, or Kary R. Roberts, or Kary Roberts or Sean Bishop caught a break today when a Philadelphia judge set bail for the heavy-equipment operator with a handful of names who is accused of causing the June 5 building collapse on Market Street that killed six people and injured 13.

Benschop - the name that the District Attorney's Office used when he was arrested June 8 - had been held without bail prior to the brief hearing before Municipal Judge James DeLeon.

At the request of defense attorney Daine A. Grey Jr., DeLeon set bail at just over $1.5 million, requiring Benschop to post 10 percent of that amount to be released.

Also at Grey's request, the judge rescheduled a preliminary hearing for Sept. 17.

Grey, who said Benschop does not yet have the bail money, said further investigation was needed to determine the cause of the building collapse.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Selber argued against any bail, calling the defendant a flight risk given his multiple aliases, three prior arrests as a fugitive in the city and five prior failures to appear in court.

Selber added that the Guyana native is not a citizen of the United States and has several birth dates - court records indicate he is 42; Grey told the judge he is 43.

"All these things," she told reporters, "can make a person more difficult to track if they are released."

Benschop, who is married and has four children ages 6 to 22, is charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person, causing a catastrophe and risking a catastrophe.

Authorities say he was impaired by marijuana and prescription pills while operating a crane to demolish a vacant building near 22nd and Market streets. A wall of the vacant building fell onto a Salvation Army thrift shop, killing six people and injuring 13.

In addition to not being a flight risk, Grey said, Benschop is being scapegoated by authorities and did not cause the fatal building collapse.

"We believe that building was completely unstable and would probably have fallen if no one showed up at the job site anyway," he told reporters.

"All he did was follow directions and nothing that he did caused the collapse of the building that day," Grey said. "In time, that will be shown in court."

Grey declined to discuss the drug allegations because he said he had not yet seen the toxicology tests, but he questioned why his contractor client was the only person charged despite not being in charge of the construction site and before the grand jury had issued its findings.

"He's been made to look like the monster," said Grey.

District Attorney Seth Williams, who was at the courthouse on other business, said: "We won't have a rush to judgment . . . and if the grand jury believes appropriate, then there will be additional indictments."

On Twitter: @MensahDean

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