David Kwiatkowski, 34, worked as a cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired at New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital in 2011, moving 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 in four states have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C he carries.
Kwiatkowski, who has admitted stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood, pleaded guilty in August to 16 federal drug charges. He was to be sentenced Monday.
In court documents filed last week, prosecutors said Kwiatkowski should spend 40 years in prison because he 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. Defence 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, 34, 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, a blood-borne virus that can cause liver disease and chronic health problems, played a contributing role.