New Hampshire hospital worker to be sentenced for spreading hepatitis

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 02, 2013 7:09 AM

(Reuters) - A former New Hampshire hospital technician who infected patients as old as 80 with hepatitis after injecting himself with stolen painkillers will learn on Monday how much of his life will be spent in prison.

The technician, David Kwiatkowski, 34, in August admitted to leaving dirty syringes for hospital use despite knowing that he was infected with hepatitis C. He pleaded guilty to obtaining controlled substances by fraud and tampering with a consumer product.

Kwiatkowski has asked U.S. District Judge Joseph Laplante to sentence him to 30 years in federal prison.

Prosecutors have requested a 40-year sentence, saying that he knowingly put patients in eight states in danger over about a decade of work as a traveling hospital technician.

Kwiatkowski admitted to injecting himself with pre-filled syringes of the painkiller fentanyl, which he would steal from hospital supply cabinets. He filled the empty syringes with saline solution, causing the syringes to become tainted by his infected blood. Hospital staff then injected patients with the needles, not realizing they had been tampered with.

"The defendant continued this reckless conduct with full knowledge that he had hepatitis C and that he was, by his own admission, 'going to kill a lot of people out of this,'" prosecutors argued in their sentencing memo, filed in U.S. district court in Concord, New Hampshire, where Kwiatkowski will be sentenced.

Kwiatkowski's crimes were discovered when several patients at Exeter Hospital in Exeter, New Hampshire, were infected with the disease. That prompted a review of all patients Kwiatkowski had worked with in his years in the field, in what prosecutors described as a "national public health crisis."

His attorneys argued for a shorter, 30-year-sentence, noting that Kwiatkowski confessed early in the legal process against him, sparing the state the expense of the trial.

"While Kwiatkowski initially denied involvement in the offense, he confessed to the crime before his first court appearance, when he admitted that he knew that he was infected with hepatitis C and did not try to blame anyone else for his conduct," his attorneys wrote in a court filing.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)