Two years ago, the first day of summer was the last day in the life of Mark T. Smith, 52, a construction worker who fell 45 feet to his death while repairing a roof at Old Zion Lutheran Church on North Broad Street.
Wednesday marked the beginning of a new episode for Smith's boss, roofer James J. McCullagh, 60, of Meadowbrook, who pleaded guilty in federal court to six charges in connection with the fall that killed Smith.
McCullagh faces up to 25 years in prison at sentencing March 29.
"Obviously, he feels sorry about what happened to his friend," said McCullagh's lawyer, Michael McDermott. "He feels horrible about it."
McDermott said that the two men knew each other for a long time, and that Smith would sometimes pick up extra work from McCullagh.
Smith fell from a roof bracket scaffold at the church on June 21, 2013.
McCullagh pleaded guilty to failing to provide fall-safety equipment and to four counts of making false statements, admitting to telling investigators that he had provided safety equipment and harnesses to his employees when he had not.
He also admitted telling a compliance officer from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that he had seen his employees in harnesses, tethered to an anchor point earlier in the day, which was untrue.
In addition, McCullagh pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for instructing employees to tell investigators that they had safety equipment when they did not.
Smith, who lived in Northeast Philadelphia, was a married father of four who had three grandchildren.
McCullagh's company, James J. McCullagh Roofing Inc. in Northeast Philadelphia, still faces civil penalties for willful and serious OSHA violations related to the same accident.
"No penalty can bring back the life of this employee," David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, wrote in a statement. "But the outcome in this case will send a clear message that when employers blatantly and willfully ignore worker safety and health responsibilities . . . [and] lie to . . . OSHA investigators, we will pursue enforcement to the fullest extent of the law."
U.S. District Judge Nitza I. Quinones Alejandro presided over the case.