N.Y. Prison Worker Pleads Guilty In Escape Of 2 Killers

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (AP) -

A prison worker who was “in over her head” with two inmates convicted of murder tearfully pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of aiding them by smuggling hacksaw blades and other tools to the pair, who broke out and spent three weeks on the run.

Joyce Mitchell, an instructor in the tailor shop at the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York, wore shackles and prison stripes as she entered the pleas in a barely audible voice.

Afterward, her lawyer, Stephen Johnston, said she realizes she made a “horrible mistake” by getting involved with Richard Matt and David Sweat, who staged an elaborate escape from the maximum-security prison on June 6.

“She got in over her head, into something that she never should have started. But she did, and she’s paying the price now,” Johnston told reporters outside court. “…When she realized who she was dealing with, everything changed.”

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, 51, faces a sentence of 2 1/3 to seven years in prison under terms of a plea deal with prosecutors. Sentencing is set for Sept. 28.

District Attorney Andrew Wylie said separate cases against Sweat and a Gene Palmer, a guard who investigators accuse of unwittingly helping the two inmates, are expected to go before a grand jury next month.

“At this time, there are no other individuals who have been identified through the investigation as being involved directly or indirectly” with the escape, Wylie said.

Investigators said Mitchell had discussed killing her husband, Lyle Mitchell, as part of the plot. Lyle was in court Tuesday.

Authorities said Joyce Mitchell smuggled the tools into the prison by hiding them in frozen meat which Palmer then took to Sweat and Matt, who were allowed to cook their meals.

Authorities do not believe Palmer knew of the escape plan. He was released on bail.

Mitchell, who was arrested June 12, resigned from her job but remains eligible for a pension.