Second prison worker charged with aiding escaped convicts posts bail

Court documents allege that Palmer exchanged the tools for paintings, which he later burned and buried after the two prisoners escaped.

Rob Fountain/The Press-Republican/AP
A New York State Police officer escorts suspended Clinton Correctional Facility guard Gene Palmer, left, from Plattsburgh Town Court in Plattsburgh, N.Y., Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Palmer is believed to have delivered tools inside frozen meat to two Clinton Correctional Facility inmates before they escaped on June 6. He faces charges including promoting prison contraband and tampering with physical evidence, state police said.

A New York state prison guard charged with facilitating delivery of tools hidden in frozen meat to the two convicted murderers who escaped from a maximum security prison earlier this month is out on bail, according to authorities.

Gene Palmer was charged Wednesday with promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence, and official misconduct.

Court documents allege that Mr. Palmer exchanged the tools for paintings, which he later burned and buried after Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., on June 6, sparking a major manhunt, according to media reports. Palmer provided the two escapees with a screwdriver and pliers on at least four occasions, the court documents say.

Officials at Clinton County Jail in Plattsburgh said Palmer was released early morning Thursday after paying his $25,000 bail.  

His defense attorney Andrew Brockway said Palmer will plead not guilty at his arraignment Thursday. Mr. Brockway said his client has admitted to passing the frozen hamburger meat to the two escapees, but added that Palmer had no prior knowledge of their plans to escape or what was hidden inside the meat.

Mr. Sweat was serving a life sentence without parole for killing a sheriff's deputy. Mr. Matt was serving 25 years to life in the kidnapping, torture, and dismemberment of his former employer. Both remain at large.

Palmer is the second prison employee who has been charged with helping the prisoners escape, prison seamstress Joyce Mitchell has also been accused of smuggling tools to the two felons. Ms. Mitchell has pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains in police custody.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said Mitchell would put the meat in a refrigerator in the tailor shop where she worked and Palmer, who had access to the cells, would deliver it to Sweat and Matt.

Authorities say the inmates used the tools to saw through the wall at the back of their cells, before cutting their way into and out of a steam pipe and eventually breaking the chain and lock on a manhole cover outside the prison.

The search for the two escapees continues. Police say Sweat and Matt almost definitely spent time recently at a hunting camp about 20 miles west of the prison near Owls Head, but days of searching have turned up no confirmed sightings.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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