Captured inmate pleads guilty in daring New York prison escape

File photo of David Sweat appears in court with appointed defense attorney Mucia for arraignment at Clinton County court in Plattsburgh
David Sweat (R) appears in court with his appointed defense attorney Joseph Mucia for his arraignment at Clinton County court, in Plattsburgh, New York in this August 20, 2015, file photo. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/Files

November 13, 2015

By Pete DeMola

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Reuters) – A convicted killer on Friday pleaded guilty to escape charges for using hacksaw blades hidden in frozen hamburger to break out of an upstate New York prison, triggering a massive three-week manhunt.

David Sweat, 35, pleaded guilty to two counts of escape and a single count of promoting prison contraband in the June 6 breakout from Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Dannemora, New York.

Appearing in court in a green prison jumpsuit, his wrists handcuffed, his head shaved and his reddish goatee streaked with gray, Sweat was asked by Judge Patrick McGill if he understood the charges against him.

“Yes, your honor,” he said in a quiet voice.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie reminded Sweat of the Son of Sam law, which would enable New York state to seize any proceeds he earned from recounting the sensational crime in a book, movie, television show or other depiction.

Sweat was shot and captured on June 28 about two miles from the border with Canada. Days earlier, an inmate who escaped with him, Richard Matt, 49, was shot and killed by a federal agent.

The pair had broken through their cell walls and cut into and out of a steam pipe to make their escape through a manhole onto the streets of the sleepy upstate New York town.

At the time, Sweat was serving a life sentence for killing a law enforcement officer after a robbery.

He is now being held at the Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, New York, built to house the state’s toughest inmates, and will in solitary confinement for seven years, said his lawyer, Joseph Mucia.

At his Feb. 3 sentencing, prosecutors will ask the judge to order Sweat to pay a yet undetermined portion of the $79,841 in damages from the break-out.

Two Clinton Correctional employees were charged in connection with the escape.

Training supervisor Joyce Mitchell, 51, was sentenced to 2-1/3 to seven years in prison after admitting to supplying the men with the break-out tools. She also was ordered to shoulder a yet to be determined portion of the repair costs.

Correctional officer Gene Palmer, 57, has pleaded not guilty to charges, including an accusation that he helped Matt and Sweat get behind prison walls to hide contraband.

At least a dozen Clinton personnel were placed on administrative leave following the escape. The prison’s superintendent, Steven Racette, retired on July 31.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Steve Orlofsky)

  • DanO

    What was he going to do, plead not guilty? He will forever be famous out in the yards of every prison in America. If he can do it, so can I. Heck, he is already probably getting extra dessert from the kitchen crew as a favor.