NY Prison Worker Joyce Mitchell Pleads Guilty to Aiding Escapees

PHOTO: Joyce Mitchell appears before Judge Mark Rogers in City Court in this file photo, June 15, 2015, in Plattsburgh, N.Y.PlayG.N. Miller/ AP Photo
WATCH Joyce Mitchell Pleads Guilty to Aiding Prison Escapees

Former prison employee Joyce Mitchell pleaded guilty today to helping two convicted murderers escape from a maximum security prison last month in New York.

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Mitchell, who worked in the tailor shop at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, was jailed shortly after Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped on June 6. She allegedly provided tools to Matt before the escape, authorities said, by concealing them in hamburger meat.

Mitchell, 51, pleaded guilty to first-degree promoting prison contraband and fourth-degree criminal facilitation. She faces a prison sentence ranging from 2 1/3 years to 7 years.

She also agreed to cooperate with the investigation and give up her teaching certificate.

The judge said Mitchell, who wiped away tears while making the plea, could be released on $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond. Mitchell was wearing her wedding ring in court.

Mitchell's attorney, Stephen Johnston, said Mitchell has been sobbing, anxious, depressed and remorseful since her arrest.

PHOTO: From left, David Sweat and Richard Matt are shown in undated photos released by the New York State Police. The two convicted murderers escaped from prison in upstate New York the morning of June 6, 2015.New York State Police
From left, David Sweat and Richard Matt are shown in undated photos released by the New York State Police. The two convicted murderers escaped from prison in upstate New York the morning of June 6, 2015.

Johnston said Mitchell's husband, Lyle, is also upset, but continues to support his wife. Johnston said Lyle Mitchell believed it was in his wife's best interest to accept the plea deal.

"She realizes that she made a horrible mistake," Johnston said at a news conference after today's court hearing.

He said Matt made Mitchell feel "good about herself. Better than she had for a period of time. She was swept off her feet a bit."

But, Johnston said, when she realized "who she was dealing with," "everything changed."

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie agreed not to pursue other charges against Mitchell, like allegedly conspiring to murder her husband and sexual-related offenses, Wylie said, following allegations against Mitchell of affairs with prisoners and wanting to have her husband murdered.

Wylie said Sweat hasn't confirmed a sexual relationship with Mitchell, but added that he has not spoken to Sweat himself.

Sweat's case for first-degree escape will go to a grand jury in early August.

Clinton Correctional officer Gene Palmer, who was also arrested in connection with the escape, will face a grand jury next month.

No other criminal charges are expected, Wylie said.

After a three-week manhunt for the prisoners in June, Matt was shot and killed by authorities near the town of Elephant's Head in upstate New York.

Sweat was later shot and apprehended by authorities near the town of Constable in upstate New York. Sweat is now at the Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, New York.

Mitchell will be sentenced on September 28.

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