Three Company Officials Sentenced
MAYWOOD, Ill. (AP) _ Three former executives of a silver-recovery plant were sentenced today to prison terms of 25 years each following their unprecedented murder convictions in the cyanide-poisoning death of an employee.
The sentences were handed down by Cook County Circuit Judge Ronald J.P. Banks, who on June 14 found the three men guilty of murder after an eight-week bench trial.
The three also were convicted of 14 counts each of reckless conduct, fined $10,000 and sentenced to serve 364 days in jail for each count. Those sentences are to be served concurrently.
The murder convictions were believed to be the first in the nation of corporate officials in the job-related death of an employee in the workplace.
Sentenced today were Steven J. O’Neil, former president of the now-defunct Film Recovery Systems Inc.; Charles Kirschbaum, plant manager; and Daniel Rodriguez, a foreman.
They were convicted in the Feb. 10, 1983. death of Stefan Golab, a 61-year- old Polish immigrant who worked at the plant in north suburban Elk Grove Village.
Each defendant had faced up to 40 years in prison, and prosecutor Jay Magnuson had said the state’s attorney’s office would recommend substantial sentences.
In May, a fourth defendant, Gerald Pett, a former plant manager and vice president, was acquitted on the murder charge.
A fifth company official, Michael MacKay of Salt Lake City, has successfully resisted extradition to Illinois twice, but prosecutors are expected to make a third attempt to extradite him soon.
Film Recovery and another corporation, Metallic Marketing, were fined $10,000 each on their involuntary manslaughter convictions in Golab’s death. The companies also were fined $1,000 for each of 14 counts of reckless conduct, for total of $14,000 each.
Banks stayed the fines for 90 days in the case of Film Recovery because the company is in bankruptcy proceedings.
Prosecutors had contended that Golab died of cyanide poisoning and that the officials ″knowingly committed acts in creating and maintaining that plant that created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm.″
A defense witness, an out-of-state medical examiner who inspected autopsy reports, said he believed Golab died of a heart attack.
Defense attorneys contended the three men had been unaware dangerous conditions existed at Film Recovery and had worked at the plant themselves.
In delivering his verdict, Banks said the death ″was not accidental, but in fact murder.″
″They (the defendants) knew the workers were becoming nauseated and vomiting,″ said Banks in his ruling. ″They (the workers) complained ...
″I find the conditions under which the workers performed their duties toally unsafe,″ Banks said.
The judge said the plant had insufficient safety equipment and inadequate warnings.
Film Recovery and the former officers also face multimillion-dollar civil lawsuits filed by former employees who said after Golab’s death that they had also become ill from the cyanide used in extracting silver from exposed photographic and X-ray film.
The plant closed after Golab’s death. Later, 16 million pounds of cyanide- tainted film chips illegally stored at several sites in various Illinois counties were detoxified under a plan developed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the state attorney general’s office.