Alcoholic NYC court reporter’s epic meltdown imperils more than 30 verdicts

By David Ferguson
Thursday, April 3, 2014 10:21 EDT
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Drunk at work via Shutterstock
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A Manhattan court reporter’s struggle with alcoholism has left the verdicts in multiple criminal trials in question due to his illegible transcriptions and passages where he wrote nothing but “I hate my job” over and over.

According to the New York Post, Daniel Kochanski, 41, has been fired for his role in potentially invalidating verdicts in more than 30 cases. Officials told the Post that convicted criminals now have grounds to appeal their rulings due to the fact that crucial testimonies and other pieces of evidence are missing.

Transcripts of the 2010 mortgage fraud trial of former broker Aaron Hand — who plead guilty to trying to hire a hit-man to murder a hostile witness in the trial — are reportedly “gibberish.”

“It should have been questions and answers — instead it was gibberish,” said one anonymous official. “He hit random keys or wrote, ‘I hate my job. I hate my job. I hate my job,’ over and over.”

The Center for Appellate Litigation’s Claudio Trupp said to the Post that she has never seen one court reporter cause so much damage. Trupp is currently handling Hand’s appeal as well as nine other cases that Kochanski transcribed.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office arrested Kochanski at one point in an unsuccessful effort to force him to go through the transcripts and decipher them. Now judges are being forced to hold “reconstruction hearings” to attempt to piece together trials that took place years ago.

“This situation is terrible for everybody,” said Trupp. “It’s very difficult to come up with a sufficient record based on everybody’s recollection years after the event.”

Kochanski’s father told the Post that his son’s alcoholism is to blame, that Daniel’s drinking spiraled out of control about five years ago, costing him his wife and family and ultimately his livelihood.

The court reporter’s ex-wife Heather Kochanski said, “The pressure of that job pushed him over the edge, leading him to lose everything.”

Daniel Kochanski told the Post on Wednesday that he never intentionally typed gibberish and that he is currently in recovery.

“I never typed gibberish,” he said. “I always did my job 100 percent. I was let go because of substance abuse.”

“I’m in recovery,” he added. “July will be one year I’m clean.”

[image of man drunk at work via Shutterstock.com]

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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