N.H. hospital worker gets 39 years in hepatitis case

CONCORD, N.H. — A traveling medical technician was sentenced Monday to 39 years in prison for stealing painkillers and infecting dozens of patients in four states with hepatitis C through tainted syringes.

“I don’t blame the families for hating me,” David Kwiatkowski said after hearing about 20 statements from people he infected and their relatives. “I hate myself.”

Kwiatkowski, 34, was a cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired at New Hampshire’s Exeter Hospital in 2011. He had moved from job to job despite being fired at least four times over allegations of drug use and theft. Since his arrest last year, 46 people have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C he carries.

Kwiatkowski admitted stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood. He pleaded guilty in August to 16 federal drug charges.

Before he was sentenced, Kwiatkowski said he was very sorry what he had done. Standing and turning to face his victims, he said his crimes were caused by an addiction to painkillers and alcohol.

“There’s no excuse for what I’ve done,” he said. “I know the pain and suffering I have caused.”

Prosecutors asked for a 40-year sentence. Judge Joseph LaPlante said he cut the last year as a reminder that some people have the capacity for mercy and compassion.

“It’s important for you to recognize and remember as you spend the next 39 years in prison to focus on the one year you didn’t get and try to develop that capacity in yourself,” LaPlante said.

The victims spoke angrily and tearfully of the pain that Kwiatkowski had inflicted by giving them hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that can cause liver disease and chronic health problems.

Linda Ficken, 71, was one of two Kansas victims to attend the sentencing hearing. She underwent a cardiac catheterization at Hays Medical Center in 2010, and said she is haunted by the memory of Kwiatkowski standing at her bedside for more than an hour, applying pressure to the catheter’s entry site in her leg to control bleeding.

“On one hand, you were saving my life, and on the other hand, your acts are a death sentence for me,” Ficken, of Andover, Kan., told him Monday. “Do I thank you for what you did to help me? Do I despise you for what your actions did and will continue to do for the rest of my life? Or do I simply just feel sorry for you being the pathetic individual you are?”

Linwood Nelson, who was infected when he went in for a procedure at the Baltimore VA Medical Center in 2012, said Kwiatkowski “should receive the same punishment he gave us: the death penalty.”

In pushing for a 40-year prison sentence, prosecutors said Kwiatkowski created a “national public health crisis,” put a significant number of people at risk and caused substantial physical and emotional harm to a large number of victims.

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

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.

Two of the 16 charges stem from the case of a Kansas patient who has since died. Authorities say hepatitis C played a contributing role.

Ficken told The Associated Press last week that while she has struggled with fatigue since her diagnosis, a bigger blow came last month when her brother was diagnosed with leukemia and was told he needs a stem cell transplant. While siblings often are the closest match, she can’t donate because of her hepatitis C status.

She made a tearful promise to Kwiatkowski if her brother dies because she can’t be a donor.

“Rest assured, I will haunt you until the day I die,” she said.

More in Local News

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

Bolshevik replaces BS in Eyman’s voters pamphlet statement

The initiative promoter also lost a bid to include a hyperlink to online coverage of the battle.

After work to address issues, Lynnwood gets clean audit

The city has benefited from increased revenues from sales tax.

Man with shotgun confronts man on toilet about missing phone

Police say the victim was doing his business when the suspect barged in and threatened him.

Detectives seek suspect in woman’s homicide

Alisha Michelle Canales-McGuire was shot to death Wednesday at a home south of Paine Field.

Car crashes near Everett after State Patrol pursuit

The driver and a second person in the car suffered injuries.

Smith Island habitat restoration cost to rise $1.2 million

The project is intended to increase survival rates for juvenile chinook salmon.

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Jim Mathis, the Vietnam veteran whose Marysville garden was recently featured in The Herald, died Wednesday. Mathis, who suffered from PTSD and cancer, found solace in his beautiful garden. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Vietnam veteran Jim Mathis found peace in his garden

The Marysville man who served two tours died Wednesday after suffering from cancer and PTSD.

Most Read