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Former medical tech who infected patients in Maryland and other states with hepatitis C challenges sentence

Associated Press

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, including Maryland, 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.

In Maryland, Kwiatkowski is known to have worked at four hospitals: The Baltimore VA Medical Center from May 2008 to November 2008; Southern Maryland Hospital from December 2008 to February 2009; Johns Hopkins Hospital from July 2009 to January 2010; and Maryland General Hospital from January 2010 to March 2010.

Kwiatkowski, who is representing himself, filed his motion from prison in Sumterville, Fla., 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 persuade 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.

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