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Medical tech in Hep C outbreak challenges sentence

Kathy Mccormack
Associated Press

Concord, N.H. – A traveling hospital technician who was sentenced to 39 years in prison for infecting patients in multiple states with hepatitis C through tainted syringes has asked a federal judge to vacate his sentence, saying his lawyer was ineffective in representing him.

David Kwiatkowski, 39, was a cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired at New Hampshire’s Exeter Hospital in 2011. He was sentenced in 2013 after admitting that he stole painkiller syringes from hospitals where he worked and replaced them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood.

Kwiatkowski had moved from job to job despite being fired at least four times over allegations of drug use and theft. When he was arrested, at least 46 people had been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C he carried. Authorities said the disease played a role in a woman’s death in Kansas.

In all, 32 patients were infected in New Hampshire, seven in Maryland, six in Kansas and one in Pennsylvania. Kwiatkowski also worked in Michigan, New York, Arizona and Georgia.

Kwiatkowski, who is representing himself, filed his motion from prison in Sumterville, Florida, in December. He’s scheduled to be released in 2046. His case was assigned to a federal judge in Concord on Monday.

Kwiatkowski wrote that his lawyer allowed him to plead guilty under extreme emotional distress and that his sentence was incorrectly calculated.

He said when he learned about the death, he “found himself in a state of depression and though not the actual cause of death felt himself to be responsable (sic) for it.” He said the lawyer “played on this” to convince him to plead guilty to facts he wasn’t charged for.

Kwiatkowski also said the sentence should have been much lower and that his mental state “should have been in question” for agreeing to the deal.

In 2013, Kwiatkowski’s lawyers argued that a 30-year sentence would better balance the seriousness of the crimes against his mental and emotional problems and his addiction to drugs and alcohol, which they said clouded his judgment.

Prosecutors had not yet responded to the motion.

“We are aware of the filing but will not be making a comment in pending matters,” said Dena Blanco, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that attacks the liver. For most people, it turns into a chronic disease. Kwiatkowski, who learned he had the disease in 2010, apologized to his victims at his sentencing, saying his crime was caused by an addiction to painkillers and alcohol.