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Tylenol Extortionist to Get Parole

February 10, 1988

CHICAGO (AP) _ An imprisoned tax accountant who plotted a $1 million extortion in an effort to capitalize on seven Tylenol poisoning deaths will be paroled in August 1989 if he stays out of trouble, a federal official said.

James Lewis, now 41, was convicted in the extortion plot after seven Chicago-area residents died when they swallowed Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide.

Lewis denied any responsibility for the killings, and investigators said they lacked evidence to file murder charges against him.

The decision to parole Lewis on Aug. 29, 1989, was reached at a meeting of the U.S. Parole Commission in Philadelphia last month, spokesman Tom Stewart said Monday.

He said Lewis must stay out of trouble during the rest of his prison term, and also have a job and a place to live waiting when he gets out. He is in the federal prison in Danbury, Conn.

He was convicted of sending a letter shortly after the seven deaths to New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson, parent company of the manufacturer of Tylenol, demanding $1 million ″to stop the killing.″

U.S. District Judge Frank McGarr, who sentenced Lewis in June 1984, ordered that his 10-year prison term for extortion begin after he completed two concurrent 10-year sentences for tax and mail fraud that had been imposed earlier in 1984 by a federal judge in Kansas City, Mo.

The unrelated tax and mail frauds were committed before the Tylenol extortion letter was sent.

By the 1989 release date, Lewis will have been in federal custody for 6 years and 8 1/2 months since his arrest on the extortion charge mid-December 1982.

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