DENVER — A surgery technician who infected about three dozen people with hepatitis C after she injected herself with painkiller-filled syringes and replaced them with ones filled with saline was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison.
Kristen Diane Parker received the sentence in federal court in Denver after pleading guilty to some of the charges in the case. Prosecutors had previously recommended that Parker get 20 years in prison but a judge rejected the plea agreement. Some of the victims said it was not enough time.
She was also ordered to pay $506,935 in restitution to the hospitals and $1,000 to the court-sponsored victims' fund.
"This sentence is appropriate, and reflects the seriousness of Ms. Parker's criminal conduct," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement after the sentencing. "Today's sentence should truly send a message that there are very serious consequences for these types of actions."
Parker, 27, had worked at the Rose Medical Center in Denver and the Audubon Surgery Center in Colorado Springs.
Parker, who said she got hepatitis C from using heroin, acknowledged that she took syringes filled with the painkiller Fentanyl from operating carts at the hospitals. She said she injected herself and replaced the stolen syringes with ones filled with saline. Parker said she meant to use clean replacement needles but got careless.
About 6,000 patients at the two hospitals may have been exposed to hepatitis C. About three dozen were infected.
Parker's attorney had said she was devastated that she infected people with the blood-borne disease and that she pleaded guilty to take responsibility for her actions. Hepatitis C can cause serious liver problems, including cirrhosis or liver cancer. The illness is treatable, but there is no cure.
Parker was sentenced on five counts of tampering with a consumer product and five counts of obtaining a controlled substance by deceit or subterfuge. Prosecutors dismissed 28 other charges as part of their plea deal with Parker.