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Former N.Y. Prison Employee Enters Guilty Plea Related To Inmates' Escape

Joyce Mitchell, who has reached a plea deal over charges that she aided a prison escape, is seen here during a June court date, along with her lawyer, Steven Johnston.
Joyce Mitchell, who has reached a plea deal over charges that she aided a prison escape, is seen here during a June court date, along with her lawyer, Steven Johnston.

Joyce Mitchell, the Clinton Correctional Facility worker who was charged last month with aiding two convicted killers' escape, has pleaded guilty after reaching a deal with prosecutors.

Mitchell, 51, was an instructor in the tailor shop at the prison in northern New York — a position that officials say allowed her to pass tools such as hacksaw blades and a screwdriver to prisoner Richard Matt.

Matt escaped along with David Sweat, in a plot that was intended to include Mitchell as the getaway driver, authorities say. She backed out of that part of the plan, but the two convicts remained at large for three weeks. In late June, Matt was cornered and shot to death; Sweat was captured two days later.

On Tuesday, Mitchell pleaded guilty to both charges against her: one felony count of promoting prison contraband and one misdemeanor charge of criminal facilitation.

Mitchell will be sentenced at a hearing in September, when her punishment could range from 2-1/3 years to 7 years. If she had been found guilty of both charges after a trial, she could have risked a prison sentence of up to eight years.

"Another employee at Clinton-Dannemora, prison guard Gene Palmer, was also arrested and is awaiting trial," reports North Country Public Radio. "Meanwhile, 12 administrators and officers at the prison have been placed on administrative leave. That includes the top official at the facility — Superintendent Steve Racette. He is expected to retire by the end of this week."

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