Prison Employee in Connection With Murderers' Jailbreak Pleads Not Guilty - NBC New York

Prison Employee in Connection With Murderers' Jailbreak Pleads Not Guilty

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The 51-year-old prison tailor shop instructor suspected of helping two convicted murderers escape a maximum-security upstate New York prison in a Hollywood-style breakout after being investigated over a possible relationship with one of the men has been has been arraigned Friday night in Plattsburgh on charges of promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation.

    Joyce Mitchell is accused of "providing material assistance to Richard Matt and David Sweat to assist them in escaping from Clinton Correctional Facility," State Police said.

    Mitchell is alleged to have brought hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit into the prison, according to NBC News. Her attorney entered a plea of not guilty on all charges.

    Mitchell faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted. Her husband has not been charged. The district attorney told NBC News that, to his office's knowledge, Mitchell had yet to retain an attorney. 

    Prison Teacher Questioned in Search for Escaped Murderers

    [NY] Prison Teacher Questioned in Search for Escaped Murderers
    State and federal law officers searching for two killers who used power tools to break out of a maximum-security prison in upstate New York poured into a small town 30 miles away Tuesday after getting a report of a possible sighting. Ida Siegal reports.
    (Published Wednesday, June 10, 2015)

    There will be a preliminary hearing Monday morning at 8:30 am ET.

    "Joyce Mitchell is one fraction of our investigation," said State Police Major Charles E. Guess at a news conference Friday evening. "Our interviews of Joyce Mitchell have been fruitful and helpful. We've charged her today so can move on in our investigation." 

    Mitchell was also suspended without pay from her $57,000-a-year job at the prison Friday, NBC News reported. 

    Meanwhile, law enforcement officers refocused their search on a new area after residents reported seeing two men jumping a stone wall.

    State Police said they have a message for the escapees: "We're coming for you and we're not stopping until you're caught," Major Guess said at the news conference.

    Guess added, "We've got to assume they are cold, wet, tired and hungry. We want to remind the community this makes individuals more desperate." 

    District Attorney Andrew Wylie would not specify the illegal items that Mitchell allegedly supplied, but said they weren't the power tools that Sweat and Matt used to cut their way out of the maximum-security institution last weekend.

    Wylie said items considered contraband can include such things as toothpaste or drugs.

    Sources have said Mitchell -- an instructor at the prison tailor shop, where the two convicts made Metro-North uniforms -- "thought it was love" with Matt and agreed to be the getaway driver, but she got cold feet and never showed up. Sources have said she checked herself into the hospital on Saturday with "a case of the nerves."

    A son told NBC earlier this week that she would not have helped the inmates escape and that she checked herself into a hospital with chest pains Saturday, the day the breakout was discovered.

    Sweat, 34, and Matt, 48, cut through steel and bricks and crawled through a steam pipe, emerging from a manhole outside the 40-foot walls of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border.

    About 800 state, federal and local law enforcement officers Friday combed the woods for a seventh day in attempts of tracking down the convicts.

    Search teams were slogging up to their knees through swamps and streams swarming with bloodsucking insects. They set up a grid and lined roads in hopes of flushing out the escaped prisoners. At one point, helicopters hovered over the dense forest. 

    Local schools and the main road into Dannemora remained closed for a second day. 

    Authorities said they've received more than 700 tips about the escape but there have been no confirmed sightings, according to state police. 

    Gov. Cuomo said Thursday that investigators were "talking to several people who may have facilitated the escape." He warned that the law will come down hard on any prison system employee who crosses the line.

    "If you do it, you will be convicted, and then you'll be on the other side of the prison that you've been policing, and that is not a pleasant place to be," the governor said.

    Vermont officials are also searching near Lake Champlain for the men. 

    A longtime neighbor was stunned by the suspicions swirling around Mitchell.

    "I just can't believe she'd do something so stupid," neighbor Sharon Currier said. She said Mitchell is "not somebody who's off the wall."

    She said Mitchell is a former town tax collector in Dickinson, a community near Dannemora. Skilled at sewing, she has worked for at least five years at the prison, where her husband is also employed, Currier said.

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