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January trial date for N.H. hep C outbreak case

The trial date for a former Exeter Hospital technician accused of stealing drugs and infecting patients with hepatitis C has been pushed back to January, giving his defense lawyers some of the additional preparation time they requested.

David Kwiatkowski, who has been in jail since his arrest in July, was scheduled to face trial on 14 federal drug charges Oct. 1, but his lawyers recently asked for at least six months beyond that given the complexity of the case. They later offered a March date as a compromise, but prosecutors were unwilling to delay the trial beyond January.

In an order posted yesterday, Judge Joseph Laplante set a Jan. 7 trial date but said that could change if a significant amount of further evidence comes up.

In requesting more time, the public defenders representing Kwiatkowski noted that they have only two attorneys and one investigator to sift through more than 10,000 files associated with the case. 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.

Prosecutors responded by dismissing defense
arguments that they have unlimited resources to devote
to the case. They also emphasized that just as Kwiatkowski is owed adequate time
to prepare for trial, the victims have a right to see
the case settled in a timely fashion.

Kwiatkowski, who pleaded not guilty 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 blood.

Thirty-two people in New Hampshire and a dozen people in other states have been diagnosed with the strain of hepatitis C, a blood-borne viral infection that can cause liver disease and chronic health issues, carried by Kwiatkowski. New Hampshire’s public health department has held numerous testing clinics for patients of the hospital.

Kwiatkowski worked at 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired in Exeter in April 2011.

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