Last Friday, a federal judge rejected a plea agreement for a former hospital technician and drug user who admitted that she exposed hundreds of patients in her care to hepatitis C. He suggested the recommended 20 yeas was not sufficient punishment.
Judge Robert E. Blackburn, said the agreement with the former hospital worker, Kristen D. Parker, inordinately restrained his discretion and did not take into account the views of victims, many of whom submitted anguished written statements. It is unusual, legal experts said, for a judge to reject a plea agreement.
Ms. Parker, 27, admitted to the police on videotape that while working at Rose Medical Center in Denver in 2008 and 2009, she stole pain-medication syringes from operating room trays, replacing them at times with needles she had already used to inject herself with heroin.
Seventeen Rose patients have so far been found to have a strain of hepatitis C linked through genetic sequencing to the strain in Ms. Parker’s blood, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Hepatitis C affects liver function and can have lifelong consequences.
Judge Blackburn warned Ms. Parker in the brief hearing in Federal District Court, before a courtroom packed with former Rose patients and their families, that if she chose to continue with her guilty plea, the sentence could be stiffer.