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Murder Charges Dropped in Cyanide Death of Worker

June 26, 1995

CHICAGO (AP) _ Prosecutors have quietly agreed to drop murder charges against a former vice president of a company where a worker collapsed from cyanide poisoning, the Chicago Tribune reported today.

Michael T. MacKay had been charged with murder and 22 counts of reckless conduct in the February 1983 death of 61-year-old Stefan Golab, who collapsed at Film Recovery Systems Inc., where cyanide was used to recover silver from used X-ray film.

On May 31, Circuit Judge Eugene Champion dismissed the charges in exchange for MacKay’s guilty plea to one misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct in connection with injuries to another worker who inhaled cyanide fumes, the Tribune reported.

MacKay was fined $1,000 and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. The date and nature of the second worker’s injuries were not immediately available.

``We are satisfied that he has admitted to culpability in this case,″ said a spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Jack O’Malley.

MacKay, 54, never stood trial because two successive governors in his home state of Utah refused to extradite him to Illinois. Utah officials doubted he could get a fair trial. MacKay’s attorneys contended he resigned as vice president of the company in 1982, the year before Golab’s death.

Fearing arrest, MacKay had not left Utah since 1983, said his lawyer, Irving Miller.

Prosecutors likened the Film Recovery Systems plant in Elk Grove Village 20 miles northwest of Chicago to a ``huge gas chamber″ and said workers were not told they were working with cyanide or that chemicals used at the plant could harm them.

Three other former company executives _ president Steven J. O’Neil, plant manager Charles Kirschbaum and foreman Daniel Rodriguez _ were convicted of murder, involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct in 1985. The case was believed to be the first in which corporate officials were convicted of murder in a job-related death.

An Illinois appellate court overturned the convictions in 1990. Rather than face a second trial, the three executives pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 1993. O’Neil was sentenced to three years in prison and Kirschbaum, two. Rodriguez received two years’ probation. A fourth company official, vice president and manager Gerald Pett, was acquitted.

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