Prison tailor awaits sentencing in jailbreak case: Will she do time?

Joyce Mitchell admitted to helping two convicts escape from an upstate New York prison, but says she is 'just someone who got caught up in something she couldn’t get out of.'

Rob Fountain/The Press-Republican/AP/File
Joyce Mitchell raises her hand during a court appearance in Plattsburgh, N.Y., July 28. Ms. Mitchell, the former New York prison employee who helped two killers escape from a maximum-security prison in June, said in an interview that aired Monday, Sept. 14, on NBC's 'Today' show that she was depressed at the time and the inmates took advantage of what she called her 'weakness.'

A prison employee who facilitated the escape of two convicted murderers in upstate New York in June will hear her sentence on Monday. 

Joyce Mitchell, who worked as a supervisor at a tailor shop in the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility, pleaded guilty to providing the inmates with tools for their escape. She faces up to seven years in prison under terms of a plea deal reached with prosecutors. 

The inmates, Richard Matt and David Sweat, escaped on the evening of June 6. A three-week manhunt through the Adirondack Mountains ended with Mr. Sweat captured on June 28 about 2 miles from the Canadian border. Mr. Matt had been fatally shot two days earlier by a federal agent.

Under the plea deal, Ms. Mitchell will not face any possible sexual assault or rape charges related to allegations that she had sexual relations with Matt or Sweat, according to Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie.

"I enjoyed the attention, the feeling both of them gave me and the thought of a different life," she told police after her arrest.

Mitchell suffered a panic attack the day of the escape and was taken to hospital. She was arrested a week later.

She had also agreed to meet the inmates outside the prison and drive a getaway car but backed out at the last minute – forcing the pair to abandon plans to flee to Mexico. The original plan also included going to her home and killing her husband, Lyle, who also worked at the prison.

In an interview on NBC’s "Today" show earlier this month Mitchell said she "had no intention of ever meeting them."

"I'm not the monster everybody thinks I am. I’m really not," she added. "I'm just someone who got caught up in something she couldn’t get out of."

An investigation by the state inspector general’s office is still underway.

Sweat had been scheduled to appear in Plattsburgh City Court on Tuesday to face three felony escape charges – each charge potentially brining a $5,000 fine and up to seven years in prison – but his case was pulled from the docket. Mr. Wylie declined to say whether Sweat and his assigned counsel were considering a possible plea deal. Sweat was serving a life sentence without parole at Clinton Correctional at the time of his escape.

A second Clinton Correctional employee, prison guard Gene Palmer, also faces charges in the escape. Authorities say he unwittingly abetted the escape by giving Matt and Sweat frozen hamburger meat Mitchell used to hide hacksaw blades she smuggled to the inmates. Mr. Palmer is pleading not guilty to a charge of promoting prison contraband.

Material from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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