A building collapse and the scales of justice

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The lawsuits have begun, and they’re probably only the tip of the iceberg. Several of the victims of Wednesday’s building collapse in Center City Philadelphia have filed suit against property owner Richard Basciano and Griffin Campbell, owner of the construction company paid to perform the demolition.

Before the ink is dry on that lawsuit, others will surely follow. There are plenty of victims, and plenty of blame, to go around.

Meanwhile, authorities have arrested crane operator Sean Benschop, a 42-year-old man from the Hunting Park section of the city, and charged him with six counts of involuntary manslaughter and several more counts of risking and causing a catastrophe. Benschop’s blood tests and toxicology reports have already been released to the public, and police sources say he will also be charged with reckless endangerment.

Already news outlets have reported on Benschop’s prior arrests and drug use, and provided his guilty-looking mug shot. If ever a man were set up to take a fall, it is Benschop, who gives the appearance of a classic sacrificial lamb.

Benschop may well be guilty of every single count and deserve the jail time he will likely get, but his quick arrest and charging gives the impression that the law enforcement work in the aftermath of this tragedy is over with—and it isn’t.

The moneyed interests—the building’s owner and the construction company owner—as well as the regulatory interests—the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections among them—are at least as culpable as Benschop in this tragedy, but as of today, no law enforcement agencies have rushed to arrest them and charge them with manslaughter.

Those further arrests and charges may happen eventually, once the entire investigation is completed in the weeks and months ahead, but the speed with which authorities dropped the hammer on the lowly crane operator is another indicator that there are two separate scales of justice—one for the connected, who get the benefit of a thorough investigation and time to secure competent legal representation—and one for the Sean Benschops of the world—who go directly to jail.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)

 

 

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