NY Prison Escape: Joyce Mitchell Appears in Court as Search for Convicts Continues

PHOTO: Joyce Mitchell appears in court, June 15, 2015. PlayABC News
WATCH Day 10 of Manhunt and No Sign of Escaped Prisoners; Prison Employee Accused of Helping Them Appears in Court

The lawyer for Joyce Mitchell, the prison tailoring shop instructor charged with helping two killers flee from a New York prison, said his client is "distraught" and "probably" shocked to be in the limelight.

"Let's just say that she's very upset," Stephen Johnston told reporters. "If you were arrested and you were a cause célèbre, you'd be distraught too."

Mitchell appeared in court today as the search for the convicts entered its 10th day. When asked if Mitchell understands that the entire town is watching her story, Johnston answered, "I believe so."

Wearing handcuffs and a black and white striped prison uniform today, Mitchell, 51, is charged with promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation for allegedly helping inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat escape from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, on June 6.

Johnston, told Judge Mark Rodgers today in Plattsburgh City Court that he and his client are waiving a preliminary felony hearing. The judge then said the next date will come from county court. Mitchell mostly kept her head down while her attorney and the judge spoke briefly.

According to Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie, Mitchell had planned to meet Matt, 48, and Sweat, 35, at a power plant near the prison the night of their escape and expected to drive them to a wooded area about seven hours away.

PHOTO: Prison worker Joyce Mitchell, 51, was arrested on June 12, 2015 for helping two convicted murderers break out of an upstate New York prison. Rensselaer County Sheriffs Office
Prison worker Joyce Mitchell, 51, was arrested on June 12, 2015 for helping two convicted murderers break out of an upstate New York prison.

Instead of driving the getaway car, Mitchell checked herself into a hospital, complaining of a panic attack, Wylie said.

"She realized what this was going to do to her family,” Wiley said. “She realized that she loved her husband, Lyle, and she did not want to leave him at the end.”

Mitchell has pleaded not guilty.

PHOTO: Joyce Mitchell, left, stands with her attorney Keith Bruno as she is arraigned in City Court on Friday, June 12, 2015, in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Mike Groll, Pool/AP Photo
Joyce Mitchell, left, stands with her attorney Keith Bruno as she is arraigned in City Court on Friday, June 12, 2015, in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Authorities say the escape was being planned for five weeks. According to prosecutors, Mitchell smuggled speed-bag boxing gloves and lighted glasses, along with blades, chisels and cutting tools into the facility.

The convicts used power tools to cut through the back of their adjacent cells, broke through a brick wall, then cut into a steam pipe and slithered through it, finally emerging outside the prison walls through a manhole, authorities said.

Matt was serving 25 years to life in prison after he kidnapped and beat a man to death in 1997. Sweat was serving a life sentence after he was convicted of killing a Broome County sheriff's deputy in 2002.

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.

Authorities remain unsure where the inmates might be.

“We don’t know if they are still in the area, of if they’re in Mexico by now,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo this morning announced a formal investigation "to determine all factors potentially involved in the escape," according to a press release. New York Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott is tasked with conducting the investigation.

"Capturing these killers and returning them to state custody remains our top priority -- however, it's critically important to examine the circumstances that enabled these inmates to escape in the first place," Cuomo said in the press release.

PHOTO: Law enforcement officers walk in a field along Route 3, June 13, 2015, in Saranac, N.Y. Mike Groll/AP Photo
Law enforcement officers walk in a field along Route 3, June 13, 2015, in Saranac, N.Y.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.