NY prison worker pleads guilty in escape of 2 killers

Joyce Mitchell, a tailor shop instructor at Clinton Correctional Facility, was jailed shortly after the elaborately staged June 6 escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat. Matt was shot and killed by searchers June 26, about 30 miles west of the prison; Sweat was captured near the Canadian border two days later and sent to another prison.

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — A northern New York prison worker pleaded guilty Tuesday to smuggling hacksaw blades in frozen hamburger meat to two killers who later broke out and spent more than two weeks on the run.

Joyce Mitchell, a tailor shop instructor at Clinton Correctional Facility, was jailed shortly after the elaborately staged June 6 escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat. Matt was shot and killed by searchers June 26, about 30 miles west of the prison; Sweat was captured near the Canadian border two days later and sent to another prison.

The 51-year-old woman, who cooperated with investigators, wept as she pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree promoting prison contraband, a felony, and misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal facilitation.

Mitchell faces a sentence of 2 1/3 years to 7 years in prison under the terms of a plea deal with prosecutors. A sentencing date was not announced.

This combination made from photos released by the New York State Police shows inmates David Sweat, left, and Richard Matt. Authorities on Saturday, June 6, 2015 said Sweat, 34, and Matt, 48, both convicted murderers, escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. (New York State Police via AP)
This combination made from photos released by the New York State Police shows inmates David Sweat, left, and Richard Matt. Authorities on Saturday, June 6, 2015 said Sweat, 34, and Matt, 48, both convicted murderers, escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. (New York State Police via AP)

She was suspended without pay from her job when she was arrested June 12 and has been in jail since then.

Mitchell admitted providing hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch tool and a screwdriver to Matt. Authorities say she became close to the pair, agreed to be their getaway driver and even discussed killing her husband. But she backed out at the last moment, forcing Matt and Sweat to flee on foot after they emerged from a manhole near the maximum-security prison.

Authorities said she smuggled the hacksaw blades and other tools into the prison by hiding them in frozen meat she placed in a refrigerator in the tailor shop. They said corrections officer Gene Palmer then took the meat to Sweat and Matt, who were housed in a section where inmates are allowed to cook their meals.

Authorities do not believe Palmer knew of the escape plan. He was released on bail after being arrested on charges including promoting prison contraband.

Investigators do not think knowledge of the plot went beyond Matt, Sweat and Mitchell.

Authorities say Matt and Sweat cut through their adjoining cell walls over months, climbed down catwalks to tunnels, broke through a brick wall, cut into and out of a steam pipe and cut a chain holding a manhole cover outside the prison to get away.

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