PLATTSBURGH — A sobbing former prison worker who helped two murderers escape from a maximum security lock-up said she regretted her “horrible mistake” as she was sentenced today to up to seven years behind bars as part of a plea deal.
Joyce Mitchell apologized profusely as she was sentenced to two and a third 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 November 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.
Matt was serving 25 years to life for the killing and dismembering of his former boss. Sweat was serving life without parole for killing a sheriff’s deputy in 2002.
The pair eluded more than 1,000 searchers who combed the thick woods and bogs of northern New York for much of the next three weeks. Matt was killed by a border agent on June 26. Sweat was wounded and captured by a state trooper two days later.
Mitchell admitted becoming close with the pair while she worked as an instructor in the prison tailor shop. She told investigators she agreed to be their getaway driver before backing out after suffering a panic attack. The escapees were forced to scrub plans to head to Mexico and instead fled on foot after emerging from a manhole.