Physical therapist from South Hadley gets probation on groping charges; dozens of supporters pack courtroom


Staff Writer

Published: 09-28-2022 1:18 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Former patients and colleagues of physical therapist Edward Kostek packed the courtroom on Tuesday morning to show solidarity during his sentencing on three counts of indecent assault on a patient, charges that Kostek’s supporters said are impossible to believe.

After a two-hour hearing that was moved to a larger courtroom to accommodate the crowd, District Court Judge Jacklyn Connly sentenced Kostek, 42, to two years probation on one count of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14. For two additional counts, Kostek received a suspended two-year jail sentence that will only be triggered if he violates his probation.

A jury convicted Kostek, a South Hadley resident, on Thursday. As part of his sentence, he must also pay a $90 victim/witness fee and provide a DNA sample to the court.

Prosecutors had argued for a sentence of 2½ years in jail followed by two years on probation with certain conditions.

The incidents took place on separate occasions in January 2019, according to prosecutors, when the victim was being treated for neck injuries at Cooley Dickinson Hospital Rehabilitation Services at 8 Atwood Drive. She had been injured in a car accident.

Kostek was arraigned on the charges in July 2020.

“The victim in the case testified that during three of those sessions, Kostek inappropriately touched her in private areas of her body,” the Northwestern district attorney’s office said in a statement.

The victim spoke briefly before sentencing, saying the incidents affected her relationships with health care providers in general and that the case “haunts me daily.” As a matter of policy, the Gazette does not identify victims of sexual assaults.

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Kostek’s supporters were stunned that he would be accused of such a crime and many said after the hearing that they don’t believe the allegations.

“I trusted him and I still trust him,” said Petroula Karigiannis, whom Kostek treated over 10 years, from 2011-21. “What am I going to do now? He’s an important part of my treatment.”

She said the situation represents “quite a loss for the community” and Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

Victor Weinblatt said Kostek “managed to keep me out of a wheelchair and off walkers.” The size of the crowd in the courtroom, he said, speaks to Kostek’s integrity, “and I would trust him with my daughters.”

At one point, a court officer said the room was at capacity and no one else would be admitted. People who had come for scheduled arraignments were directed to a different courtroom.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Covington said he is satisfied by the overall outcome of the case but believes that jail time was warranted for these crimes.

“We fully believe that the jury got it right here,” Covington said after the hearing. “Mr. Kostek’s behavior here was obviously extremely troubling and the jury came back last week after two hours and convicted him on three separate (felonies). The commonwealth believes Mr. Kostek abused his position of trust and power and took advantage of the victim in this case.”

‘Career is over’

Kostek’s attorney, Thomas Kokonowski, asked the judge for probation and to wait before requiring Kostek to register as a sex offender. Connly agreed to allow Kostek to undergo a sex offender treatment evaluation before deciding if registration will be required.

Kokonowski said Kostek has no prior criminal record and the convictions are related only to his work as a physical therapist.

“He is not going to be a physical therapist anymore. He can’t be,” Kokonowski said. “If that license is not gone already, it will be. … There should not be any concern about this type of situation happening again. His career is over.”

Kostek has also hired an appellate attorney, Kokonowski said, suggesting that he is planning to appeal the convictions. The “humiliation” that his client has experienced, he said, “cannot be measured.”

Before announcing her sentence, Connly took a recess to finish reading more than 70 letters that were submitted by Kostek’s supporters. She also heard statements in court from his wife and brother-in-law, who attested to Kostek’s reputation and character.

“Ed is a devoted husband,” Michelle Kostek said. “He is my partner in all things and my closest friend. He is loyal beyond measure, kind, serious and thoughtful.”

Andrew Simino, who is married to Kostek’s sister, said he met Kostek in 1995 and considers him “the brother I never had.” He said Kostek volunteered for the Special Olympics for 10 years and helped many family members overcome injuries.

Simino said he has “never questioned his integrity, character or respect for women.”

A statement distributed to reporters by Simino and attributed to Kostek’s family calls the allegations “false” and says they will “stand by him as he continues in the fight to prove his innocence.”

Brigette Jones, a former colleague of Kostek, wrote a letter to the judge asking for leniency. After the sentencing, she said there is “no one more professional.”

“We all know that Ed treats with the door cracked,” Jones said. She said there were flaws and oversights in the investigation.

“Every one of us feels like it could have been us” accused of inappropriately touching a patient, former colleague Tom Murphy said. “Our job involves touching people. … What happens if someone interprets your touch wrong?”

Indeed, many supporters were wearing buttons that read, “I am Ed Kostek. Justice for Ed.”

Brian Steele can be reached at]]>