CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — 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. He said his crimes were caused by an addiction to painkillers and alcohol.
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 a bleeding problem.