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Home » News » Crime

December 01. 2013 8:31PM

Exeter Hospital's 'serial infector' sentenced to 39 years


KWIATKOWSKI 

CONCORD - U.S. District Court Judge Joseph LaPlante sentenced former Exeter Hospital medical technician David M. Kwiatkowski to 39 years in federal prison Monday after hearing hours of emotional and painful accounts from about 20 former patients who were infected with the potentially deadly hepatitis C virus through his drug-swapping scheme.

Kwiatkowski, 34, apologized to victims about the suffering he caused, saying he never intended to cause harm but that his actions were motivated by his drug and alcohol addiction.
The government sought a 40-year term. Public defenders asked for a 30-year term.

 

In sentencing Kwiatkowski, LaPlante explained why he decided to impose a sentence one year less than what the government sought.
 

"The question is begged here why 39 years as opposed to 40? While the law doesn't view it as purposeful or knowing conduct, just viewing it as reckless conduct for a crime of addiction just doesn't do it justice," LaPlante explained.
 

"There is a component to your conduct that goes beyond recklessness," LaPlante told Kwiatkowski.
 

"There is a component of cruelty or sadistic or hostility or something about it," the judge added.
 

LaPlante told Kwiatkowski he could view his imposing one year less than the 40-year maximum the government sought as "a token."
 

"People do have a capacity for mercy. This isn't any generous helping of that. It's just a token ... It's important for me to recognize and remember as you'd spend the next 39 years of your life in prison, I hope you remember the one year you didn't get and remember and try to develop that capacity in yourself. I don't wish you death in prison, but to call this just a reckless act or the crime of a drug-addicted person would not be accurate and it would not be just," LaPlante said.



Kwiatkowski's victims called him a "sociopath," a "coward," a "monster" and "evil" for forever ruining their lives and the lives of their families.


Eight victims and their families traveled 1,700 miles from Kansas to address Kwiatkowski and ask the court to impose the harshest sentence possible.


"Only an evil monster would do this to anyone, let alone to so many ... You have made sick people sicker due to your selfish want of drugs ... Because of your evil cowardice ... you denied my husband time to ... hold his dying daughter," one woman said.



Kwiatkowski apologized to the more than 100 victims and their families who packed the courtroom.


"I agree with you. I do belong in prison and I'm truly sorry for what I've done," he said, reading from a prepared statement as he stood and turned to face his victims.



"I know it's no excuse for what I have done, I never hurt anyone intentionally," Kwiatkowski added.


 
LaPlante said the harsh sentence is appropriate for the crime - which has the highest number of victims reported in a drug-diversion case.


Previous story follows:
Former Exeter Hospital medical technician David M. Kwiatkowski was sentenced today to spend 39 years in federal prison, with his victims telling a federal judge of the physical and emotional torment they endured after contracting hepatitis C from the man prosecutors say touched off a "national public health crisis."

Kwiatkowski, 34, infected at least 45 patients with the potentially fatal blood-borne disease when he worked as a medical technician in at least eight different states between 2003 and 2012. Of these, 32 were patients at Exeter Hospital who became infected with the same hepatitis C strain linked to Kwiatkowski. Six were infected while being treated at a Kansas medical center — one of whom died.

Linda Ficken and her husband were among eight residents of Hayes, Kansas, who travelled 1,700 miles to tell a federal judge to give Kwiatkowski the maximum sentence.

"You have given us a potential death sentence," Ficken told the more than 100 victims, family and media who packed the courtroom this morning.

Ficken contracted hepatitis C while undergoing a procedure a Hayes Medical Center in Kansas.



Kwiatkowski, 34, infected at least 45 patients with the potentially fatal blood-borne disease when he worked as a medical technician in at least eight different states between 2003 and 2012. Of these, 32 were patients at Exeter Hospital who became infected with the same hepatitis C strain linked to Kwiatkowski. Six were infected while being treated at a Kansas medical center — one of whom died.

Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Concord on Aug. 14 to eight counts each of tampering with a consumer product and obtaining controlled substances by fraud in connection with seven of the New Hampshire cases and the fatal Kansas case.

Kwiatkowski agreed to serve a minimum 30 years in federal prison under the plea agreement. But the government sought a 40-year sentence for the man it calls a "serial infector" whose chronic alcohol and narcotic abuse began while in high school in Michigan and continued right up until his July 19, 2012, arrest. He was drinking about a fifth of vodka a day while a staff employee at Exeter Hospital, court records say.

U.S. Attorney John P. Kacavas of New Hampshire acknowledged the higher term exceeds recommended guidelines, but is warranted given Kwiatkowski's actions resulted in one victim's death and inflicted widespread damage and infection — the full extent of which may never be known, the government claims.

The government argued Kwiatkowski deserved the longer sentence because he learned he had hepatitis C in 2010, yet continued swapping off tainted syringes, knowing the risk of infection this posed. Kwiatkowski worked mainly as a traveling medical technician at hospitals in Maryland, Arizona, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Georgia and New Hampshire.

By his own admission, Kwiatkowski exposed more than 100 people to the virus by injecting himself with syringes filled with the painkiller fentayl intended for patients, filling the used syringes with saline, then setting them back on the tray for patient use. Kwiatkowski's syringe-swapping scam was discovered in May 2012.

Defense attorneys Jonathan R. Saxe and Bjorn Lange said a 30-year sentence is consistent with comparable cases. They also noted Kwiatkowski accepted responsibility and indicated he would plead guilty not long after his arrest — saving victims from having to prepare for trial and the government the costs of a trial.

The defense also argued Kwiatkowski's addictive behavior was fairly well documented during his career, yet resulted in little, if any, treatment.

"The scope and severity of the damage wrought by Kwiatkowski's conduct warrants significant punishment, but the court should take into account the pernicious and escalating effects of the untreated addictive illness which he has suffered since he was a teenager in Michigan," they wrote.

kmarchocki@unionleader.com


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