Prison tailor pleads guilty to aiding two escaped killers

Joyce Mitchell leaves Plattsburgh City Court after her hearing, Monday, June 15, 2015, in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Mitchell is charged with helping convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat escape from Clinton Correctional Facility. (Rob Fountain/Press-Republican via AP)

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — A northern New York prison worker admitted 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, wept as she pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree promoting prison contraband, a felony, and misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal facilitation.

Mitchell, 51, faces a sentence of 2 1/3 years to 7 years in prison under terms of a plea deal with prosecutors. A sentencing date was not announced. Her lawyer said his client won’t be able to post the bail set by the judge at $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond.

Mitchell 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.

Mitchell was suspended without pay from her job when she was arrested June 12.

She 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.

Investigators also said Mitchell had discussed killing her husband, Lyle Mitchell, as part of the plot.

Lyle Mitchell was in court Tuesday and declined to speak with an Associated Press reporter afterward.

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. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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