The frustration in lawyer Daine A. Grey Jr.’s voice was palpable.
He told Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner he tried calling, tried pleading, tried getting orders from judges but nothing was getting client Sean Benschop his name back.
Benschop, 43, was operating the excavator on June 5, 2013 when an unsupported four-story wall toppled on to the adjacent Salvation Army thrift store at 2136 Market St., killing six people and injuring 13. He’s in prison without bail, charged with six counts of third-degree murder and faces the probability – if convicted – of spending life in prison without parole.
So, taking the long view, being misidentified in the official court records of the Philadelphia’s First Judicial District might be the least of Benschop’s problems.
Still, it is his name and Benschop and Grey would like to know how, after his arrest on June 8, 2013, Sean Benschop’s name became Kary R. Roberts and Sean Benschop became Kary R. Roberts’ alias.
News media, including The Inquirer, began identifying him as “Sean Benschop, also known as Kary R. Roberts.” For the record, Grey says Benschop has never been known as Kary R. Roberts and has never known A Kary R. Roberts.
“He only known as that in the newspapers,” Grey said.
Well, also in the public records of the Philadelphia courts. The term “public records” carries a certain weight in the public’s mind. Problem is that public records are created by people and people sometimes make mistakes. But correcting official mistakes is not so simple.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Selber, one of the prosecutors in the collapse case, said she does not know how the name switch occurred although Benschop’s FBI criminal history shows he used the surname Roberts in a 1994 drug arrest and that may have been the genesis.
“To his credit, he’s always said to us that his name is Sean Benschop and, for what it’s worth, we’ve all agreed to call him Sean Benschop from now on,” Selber said.
Making that official, however, is another matter.
Benschop is not alone. At a preliminary hearing last Wednesday for a man accused of two rape-murders in 1989, an inmate witness named Richard Simmons was grilled by defense attorneys about his credibility because he had seven aliases and a criminal record going back to 1984. Simmons, 42, insisted that he had never used any name other than his own and said he has struggled to correct a mix-up between his records and those of another Richard Simmons.
In that hearing, Simmons got support from prosecutor Gwenn Cujdik, who noted that -- if the records were correct -- Simmons would have committed his first adult offense at age 12.