Tech charged in hepatitis C outbreak seeks trial delay
A former hospital technician charged with stealing drugs and infecting patients with hepatitis C wants his trial delayed until at least next April, in part because the public defenders representing him said federal budget cuts will force them to take more than a dozen days off in the coming months.
David Kwiatkowski, who has been in jail since his arrest in July, is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 1, but his lawyers filed a motion this week asking that the trial be moved back at least six months. They argue that more time is needed given the complexity of the case and noted that they have only two attorneys and one investigator to sift through more than 10,000 files associated with the case so far.
“The team has barely scratched the surface of the immense amount of discovery already received,” wrote attorneys Bjorn Lange and Jonathan Saxe. “There has as yet been no independent investigation by the defense team. That is because the only investigator assigned to the case has spent approximately 243 hours organizing and reviewing the discovery.”
The defense lawyers also argued that under the automatic budget cuts that began taking effect in March, each employee in the office is required to take 16 furlough days before October, which amounts to nearly 400 lost hours. In contrast, the prosecution has the ability to marshal “essentially unlimited resources” to investigate and prosecute Kwiatkowski, they wrote.
“It is therefore highly inappropriate for the government to be attempting to prevent Mr. Kwiatkowski from having the time necessary to confront the evidence against him and prepare for trial,” the defense wrote, adding that Kwiatkowski himself is unaware of the full scope of the evidence against him.
In a response filed yesterday, U.S. Attorney John Kacavas said he would agree to push the trial back to mid-January, but that the defense arguments about the government’s unlimited resources are meritless. A single attorney is prosecuting the matter, while also working on other cases, he said, and his office, too, has been advised of potential furloughs.
He also emphasized that just as Kwiatkowski is owed adequate time to prepare for trial, the victims also have a right to see the case settled in a timely fashion.
“Some of these victims are elderly and/or quite ill,” he wrote. “Extending the trial date far into the future may present difficulties for these victims. It could hinder their ability to testify. In fact, victims could even pass away while awaiting the commencement of the trial in this case.”
Kwiatkowski, who pleaded not guilty to 14 drug charges in December, is accused of stealing painkiller syringes from Exeter Hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his own blood. Thirty-two people in New Hampshire and a dozen people in other states have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C carried by Kwiatkowski, who worked at 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired in Exeter in April 2011. He was fired twice previously over drug allegations.