PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — A former New York prison worker who helped two murderers escape from a maximum-security lockup has been sentenced to between 2 1/3 and seven years behind bars.
Fifty-one-year-old Joyce Mitchell wiped away tears and apologized before her sentencing Monday, which she agreed to in July as part of plea deal with prosecutors. She pleaded guilty to charges related to providing tools to Richard Matt and David Sweat, who broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility June 6.
“If I could take it all back I would,” Mitchell said. “I can’t begin to explain how sorry I am for all this.”
During Mitchell’s statement she claimed that Matt threatened to kill her husband if she didn’t help him and Sweat escape.
“Why I did what I did I don’t know, other than that I was scared for my husband,” Mitchell said, before asking Judge Mark Rogers to let her “wear an ankle bracelet for the rest of my life,” instead of sending her to prison.
But Rogers appeared unswayed by Mitchell’s statement. He said before sentencing that if Mitchell wanted to protect her husband, she should have turned Sweat and Matt in when she learned of their escape plan.
“Ms. Mitchell I just don’t find that explanation credible, your husband’s life just would not have been in more danger,” Rogers said.
He also noted that New York State officials estimate the cost of the search for Sweat and Matt — who eluded more than 1,000 searchers in northern New York for weeks — at $23 million.
“But staggering as the economic costs to New York State may be, the economic and non-economic cost suffered by so many people is incalculable. A large portion of the population was terrorized, ” Rogers said, adding that law enforcement “traversed deeply inhospitable territory, never knowing if the next step they took would be their last.”
Matt was killed by a border agent June 26. Sweat was wounded and captured by a trooper two days later.
Mitchell admitted becoming close with the pair, and she agreed to be their getaway driver before backing out.
Prosecutors also requested that Mitchell pay more than $200,000 in restitution to the State of New York and $90,00 to the prison for causing them escape issues.. A hearing on that request is scheduled for November.