Prison Worker Who Helped 2 Killers Escape Gets Up to 7 Years

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (AP) -

A sobbing former prison worker who helped two murderers escape from a maximum-security lockup said she regretted her “horrible mistake” as she was sentenced Monday to up to seven years behind bars as part of a plea deal.

Joyce Mitchell apologized profusely as she was sentenced to 2 1/3 to seven years in prison, saying she acted in part out of fear. She also might have to contribute to the $120,000 in restitution the state is seeking for damages to Clinton Correctional Facility from the brazen June 6 escape. The judge showed little sympathy as he handed down the sentence and set a Nov. 6 restitution hearing.

“If I could take it all back, I would,” she told the judge. “I never intended for any of this to happen.”

Mitchell entered the courtroom in tears and cried throughout most of the 35-minute sentencing. She apologized to the community, her former co-workers and law enforcement officers for the weeks of fear and disruption the search for the killers caused.

Mitchell, 51, had pleaded guilty to charges related to providing hacksaw blades and other tools to inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat.

Judge Kevin Ryan noted that the resulting search disrupted life in a wide swath of the region for three weeks.

“A large portion of the local population were terrorized,” he said. “Many were forced to flee their homes.”

Mitchell said she didn’t tell anyone about the inmates’ escape plan because Matt had threatened to harm her family, particularly her husband, Lyle, who also worked in the prison.

“I was fearful of Mr. Matt threatening to kill my husband and wanting to know where my son and mother live,” she told the judge.

But the judge rebuffed her claim, saying, “I just don’t find that explanation credible,” he said.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie echoed that sentiment, telling reporters, “She once again is making excuses.” He called her apology an insult to those affected.