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Ex-Professor Gets 40 Years for Poisoned Candy Death Plot

July 14, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ A former university professor was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in prison for trying to kill a federal judge and a former academic colleague with poisoned Valentine’s Day bonbons.

The judge’s wife and the academic’s wife and daughter became ill after eating poison-laced chocolates sent to their homes. All three later recovered.

In a pre-sentencing memo, federal prosecutors said ″revenge for real or imagined wrongs″ apparently motivated the ″vicious and perverse″ acts of John Buettner-Janusch.

Buettner-Janusch pleaded guilty in June to mailing poisonous articles with intent to kill or injure to the house of Charles Brieant, chief federal judge for the southern district of New York.

Brieant had sentenced Buettner-Janusch in 1980 to five years in prison for making LSD in his campus laboratory. He was paroled in 1983.

The former New York University anthropology professor also pleaded guilty to sending poisoned bonbons to a professor who was a graduate student at Duke University when Buettner-Janusch taught there 20 years ago.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James R. DeVita noted that Buettner-Janusch’s precise motive was ″somewhat obscure″ because he could not remember the events leading up to the mailings.

DeVita said Buettner-Janusch mailed two other deadly boxes of candy to former colleagues but the packages were intercepted in the mails.

″I see no mitigating factors whatsoever in this case,″ said U.S. District Judge Joseph Lord in sentencing Buettner-Janusch, 63, to two consecutive 20- year prison terms.

″Every time we sentence a criminal, we subject ourselves to a generation of feelings of revenge, bitterness and recrimination,″ said Lord in handing down the maximum sentence. ″I do feel there are hundreds of other federal judges looking over my shoulder. I feel an obligation to them.″

It was unclear how long Buettner-Janusch would be imprisoned before becoming eligible for parole but federal officials said it was unlikely he would be freed before serving 10 years.

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