Up to 30 New York City criminal convictions are in jeopardy because a court reporter transcribing the proceedings typed gibberish instead of testimony.
Judges and attorneys are scrambling to determine the fate of cases that court reporter Daniel Kochanski allegedly sabotaged while struggling with bouts of alcoholism and job dissatisfaction, according to the New York Post.
“I never had a situation where a single court reporter was responsible for so much damage,” said the Center for Appellate Litigation’s Claudia Trupp, whose office is handling appeals in a third of the affected cases.
Kochanski, meanwhile, has lost his job but continues to deny responsibility, the Post reported.
Upon the stenographer’s arrest, the District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan brought in the troubled Kochanski for questioning in an attempt to decipher his nonsense, without success. Now, judges are initiating “reconstruction hearings” to cull from trial participants what they can remember of their testimony.
“The situation is terrible for everybody,” Trupp said, according to the Post. “It’s very difficult to come up with a sufficient record based on everybody’s recollection years after the event.”
One of the most serious cases affected involves fraudster Aaron Hand, who was convicted of trying to hire a hit man to kill a witness scheduled to testify against him. A source told the Post that the transcripts from Hand’s trial were a disaster.
Sources told the Post that instead of recording questions and answers, Kochanski repeatedly typed, “I hate my job,” or punched keys at random.
Kochanski’s father said his son had become an alcoholic five years ago and has lost not just his job but his marriage, too.
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