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Ex-Army Nurse Pleads Guilty in Hepatitis C Case

Ex-Army Nurse Pleads Guilty in Hepatitis C Case

Associated Press/AP Online

April 08, 2009

EL PASO, Texas – A former Army hospital nurse accused of infecting more than a dozen patients with hepatitis C pleaded guilty Tuesday to assault and theft.

Jon Dale Jones, a 46-year-old retired Army captain, entered into a plea agreement that includes one count of assault and one count of stealing drugs. A federal grand jury in El Paso indicted him on nine counts last year.

Federal prosecutors said Jones infected at least 15 patients with hepatitis C in 2004 at William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Fort Bliss, just outside El Paso.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Lewis said in court Tuesday that Jones is believed to have infected the patients after pulling fentanyl – a powerful painkiller routinely used for anesthesia – from a clean vial at the hospital and putting it in a contaminated container he brought from home. Jones would then give patients the remaining medicine from the hospital’s newly infected vials, Lewis said.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that can cause serious liver problems, including cirrhosis or liver cancer. While the illness is treatable, there is no cure. Symptoms can include nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, pain and jaundice.

Prosecutors have said Jones infected the son of a former Fort Bliss commanding general, an active duty soldier, the wife of a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant and a retired Army chief warrant officer, among others. Several of the patients have filed lawsuits.

Jones is free on bond pending sentencing in August. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

During the brief morning hearing, Jones spoke only to answer questions from U.S. District Judge Frank Montolvo.

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