New York prison escapee David Sweat pleads guilty

Sweat pleaded guilty to two felony counts of first-degree escape and a felony count of promoting prison contraband for possessing hacksaw blades used to cut his way out. Each carries a sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison.

Gabe Dickens/Press-Republican via AP
David Sweat is lead out of the Clinton County Government Center under heavy guard following his court appearance in which he pleaded guilty to one count of promoting prison contraband and two counts of escape in the first degree in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

A convicted killer who was serving life behind bars when he staged a daring escape from a maximum-security prison pleaded guilty Friday to criminal charges for the breakout.

David Sweat, in his second court appearance since his June capture, no longer wore a sling, which he donned at the first appearance after being shot by authorities during his apprehension. His head was shaved, and he made no statement. The 35-year-old Sweat, still donning a goatee and mustache, has been in special housing at Five Points prison, confined 23 hours a day.

Sweat, standing next to his lawyer and ringed by five guards, was unshackled at one wrist, sworn in and answered, "yes, sir" and "no, sir" when Clinton County Court Judge Patrick McGill questioned him. He said he wasn't under a doctor's care, wasn't coerced into pleading guilty and was taking medications that didn't interfere with his ability to understand what he was doing.

District Attorney Andrew Wylie said $79,841 in restitution will also be sought from Sweat for repairs to the prison, jointly with former prison worker Joyce Mitchell. She pleaded guilty to helping Sweat and his accomplice break out of Clinton Correctional Facility in northern New York on June 6.

Wylie also cautioned that Sweat can't profit from selling his story about the breakout and three-week manhunt, invoking the state's Son of Sam law that prohibits it.

Sweat pleaded guilty to two felony counts of first-degree escape and a felony count of promoting prison contraband for possessing hacksaw blades used to cut his way out. Each carries a sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison. Wylie has said these new convictions could mean more difficult prison time for Sweat, with fewer privileges and solitary confinement. He had been on an honor block along with fellow escapee Richard Matt with special privileges at Clinton.

Restitution can be claimed against any income from prison jobs. Most New York inmates are required to work, and they earn less than $1 an hour.

New York Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott said Friday that Sweat manipulated and extorted the prison's "profound lapses in security procedures." She's completing an investigation and detailed public accounting of the actions and systemic failures that enabled the breakout, she said.

Sweat was convicted with an accomplice in the 2002 murder of a Broome County sheriff's deputy who happened on them in a closed park after they had stolen guns from a Pennsylvania shop. Authorities said Deputy Kevin Tarsia was shot multiple times and run over.

Matt had been convicted of kidnapping, killing and dismembering his former boss in 1997 in what began as an attempt to coerce money from him.

While Sweat and Matt were on the run, they stole food and a shotgun from unoccupied camps.

Matt was shot dead June 26 in a wooded area about 30 miles west of the prison.

Sweat was shot and captured two days later in the same area while heading toward the nearby Canadian border.

On Thursday, the district attorney in Franklin County concluded that the shootings of the prisoners by officers, among more than 1,000 who joined the manhunt, were justified.

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