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Judge Imposes 25-Year Sentences In Cyanide-Poisoning Death

July 2, 1985

MAYWOOD, Ill. (AP) _ Comparing their action to placing a time bomb on an airplane, a judge ordered 25-year prison sentences for three former industrial officials convicted of murder in the job-related cyanide death of a plant worker.

Circuit Judge Ronald J.P. Banks handed down the sentences Monday against the former officials of the defunct Film Recovery Systems Inc. He also fined them $10,000 each after the unprecedented murder trial.

Addressing the men, Banks said they ignored workers’ medical complaints, didn’t post adequate warnings and created lethal conditions at the silver- recovery plant - all factors that contributed to the death of one employee.

These actions, Banks said, were no different than someone who would ″take a bomb and put it on an airline (and run away while) ... the time bomb is ticking off. Every day people worked there (at the plant), it kept ticking, it kept ticking.

″All of the defendants are going to pay for it harshly,″ he said.

The sentencing followed the June 14 verdict in which Banks found the three men guilty of murder and reckless conduct after an eight-week trial.

The murder convictions, which defense attorneys say will be appealed, were believed to be the first in the nation of corporate officials in a death caused by working conditions.

The convictions stemmed from the Feb. 10, 1983, death of Stefan Golab, a 61-year-old Polish immigrant who died after inhaling cyanide fumes at the plant in suburban Elk Grove Village. Cyanide was used to recover silver from used X-ray film.

In his sentencing, Banks said, ″What happened is a gross injustice. ...A man is dead.″

Sentenced were Steven J. O’Neil, former president of Film Recovery Systems; Charles Kirschbaum, plant manager; and Daniel Rodriguez, a foreman.

The three also were sentenced to 364 days in jail for each of 14 counts of reckless conduct. Those sentences will be served concurrently.

Banks also fined Film Recovery and another corporation, Metallic Marketing, $10,000 each on involuntary manslaughter convictions in Golab’s death. In addition, the companies were fined $1,000 for each of 14 counts of reckless conduct.

Chief prosecutor Jay Magnuson said he was pleased with the sentences, which could have been as high as 40 years. ″We’re satisfied with what happened with the trial in its entirety,″ he said.

Defense attorney Elliot Samuels, who represented Kirschbaum, compared the trial to a ″witch hunt.″

A fourth defendant, former plant manager and vice president Gerald Pett, was acquitted on the murder charge in May. A fifth company official, Michael MacKay of Salt Lake City, has twice avoided extradition to Illinois, but prosecutors are expected to make a third attempt.

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