Deal in works for data about building collapse?

A federal court hearing about records of the demolition project that killed six people and hurt 14 was postponed. The architect is citing his Fifth Amendment rights.
A federal court hearing about records of the demolition project that killed six people and hurt 14 was postponed. The architect is citing his Fifth Amendment rights. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 18, 2013

A federal court hearing involving June's fatal Center City building collapse was postponed Wednesday, a sign that lawyers for the U.S. Labor Department and the architect Plato A. Marinakos Jr. may be working out a dispute over documents subpoenaed for a federal investigation.

Neither Marinakos nor federal officials would comment, but whatever happens, lawyers for the victims of the collapse will soon be seeking the same documents. And, like the government's lawyers, they contest Marinakos' claim that some of the material may be withheld because of the architect's Fifth Amendment rights.

"The Fifth Amendment may apply to testimony, but generally not to documents," said Robert M. Mongeluzzi, who represents the relatives of two people killed in the June 5 building collapse and six of the 14 injured.

The exception, he explained, would be a situation where the production of documents itself would reveal the existence of a crime - for instance, a demand that a counterfeiter produce stacks of bogus bills.

"Based upon what we know, it does not appear there would be any good-faith privilege under the Fifth Amendment for Marinakos to refuse to produce these documents," Mongeluzzi said.

In July, the Labor Department issued a subpoena directing Marinakos to provide correspondence and other documents in eight categories, including photographs and video, connected to the fatal demolition project at 22d and Market Streets. The deaths and injuries occurred when an unbraced four-story brick wall collapsed on a Salvation Army thrift shop next door.

Marinakos had obtained the demolition permit for the job, and his architectural firm was identified as the project architect in a December 2012 contract between the building owner, STB Investments Corp., and Campbell Construction, the demolition contractor, according to a statement from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Marinakos' lawyer, Paul A. Logan, provided 116 pages of material to OSHA in mid-September, but said some documents were being withheld on Fifth Amendment grounds. Logan cited a grand jury investigation by the District Attorney's Office but did not specify the nature of the documents being withheld.

The Labor Department went into federal court trying to enforce the subpoena, and U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez scheduled a hearing for Wednesday. But the hearing was continued without an explanation.

Mongeluzzi said plaintiffs' attorneys would be filing discovery requests this week on Marinakos, other defendants in their civil cases, and city agencies, which have not been named as defendants. He said he intended to make their documents and deposition testimony public.

"We support open, public disclosure of anything we find in this investigation," Mongeluzzi said. "It's a public catastrophe . . . and we believe that is the best way for corporations, their officers, and governments to be held accountable."


warnerb@phillynews.com

215-854-5885

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