Judge: Salvation Army Execs Can’t Plead 5th in Philly Building Collapse Suit

Five Salvation Army executives will be forced to sit for depositions after a judge denied Wednesday their call to plead the Fifth in a civil suit over the June 2013 building collapse in Philadelphia that killed six people and injured 13 others.

John Cranford, Charles Dietrick, Alistair Fraser, Ralph Pomponi and Tim Raines invoked their Fifth Amendment right Thursday, but a judge ruled there is “no individual basis” to uphold this privilege, court documents show.

The Salvation Army officials failed to present an argument compelling enough to warrant pleading the Fifth, which allows witnesses to refuse to testify under oath as it could later be used as evidence against them.

The court ruled The Salvation Army must produce all five men for depositions in the wrongful death lawsuit.

Cranford’s deposition will occur Oct. 21, while the remaining four defendants, along with other witnesses, are scheduled to be deposed in the following weeks. Calls to a Salvation Army spokeswoman and an attorney for the defendants were not returned.

Various Salvation Army staff were named in the civil suit brought about by family members of those killed, as well as those who survived, the June 2013 building collapse.

The Salvation Army located at the corner of 22nd and Market streets in Center City crashed to the ground on the morning of June 5, 2013 after the remaining structure of a partially demolished, neighboring building toppled onto the thrift store.

Thomas Simmonds, the project manager of 2136 Market St. — owned by real estate developer Richard Basciano — informed thrift store officials the demolition could pose a “threat to life, limb and public safety,” in a series of emails.

The suit alleges the Salvation Army officials ignored those emails and allowed the store to remain open while the demolition took place.

No criminal charges have been filed against any Salvation Army employees.

Two contractors, 50-year-old Griffin Campbell and 43-year-old Sean Benschop, are awaiting trial on multiple counts of third-degree murder and other related offenses.

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