Prison Employee Pleads Guilty in Escape of 2 Killers

A New York prison worker admitted Tuesday to smuggling hacksaw blades in frozen hamburger meat to two killers who later broke out and spent more than two weeks on the run.

Joyce Mitchell, a tailor shop instructor at Clinton Correctional Facility, wept as she pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree promoting prison contraband, a felony, and misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal facilitation.

Mitchell, 51, faces a sentence of 2 1/3 years to 7 years in prison under terms of a plea deal with prosecutors. Sentencing is set for Sept. 28. Her lawyer said his client won't be able to post the bail set by the judge at $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond.

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Mitchell was jailed shortly after the elaborately staged June 6 escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat. 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

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Corrections officials said Tuesday that Mitchell, who was arrested June 12, resigned from her job on June 25 and remains eligible for a pension.

She admitted providing hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch tool and a screwdriver to Matt. Authorities say she became close to the pair and agreed to be their getaway driver. But she backed out at the last moment, forcing Matt and Sweat to flee on foot after they emerged from a manhole near the maximum-security prison.

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Law enforcement sources had said she "thought it was love" with Matt and had been investigated for a possible sexual incident with Sweat at the prison. Investigators also said Mitchell had discussed killing her husband, Lyle Mitchell, as part of the plot.

Mitchell's husband told Matt Lauer of NBC's "Today" that his wife admitted to giving the prisoners the tools, but denied having sex with either one. He said that she knew of a plot to have him killed, but she backed out because she still loved him.

Lyle Mitchell was in court Tuesday and declined to speak with an Associated Press reporter afterward.

A second prison worker, Gene Palmer, was also arrested in connection with the prisoners' escape. Palmer, a corrections officer, has been accused of bringing Matt and Sweat meat that Mitchell allegedly used to hide meat she smuggled to the prisoners.

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He also allegedly traded access to parts of the prison and tools for Matt's paintings, then burned and buried the artwork when he learned of the escape, authorities have said.

Palmer maintained he didn't know of the prisoners' escape plans. He was released on bail after being arrested on charges including promoting prison contraband.

Several other prison employees also faced disciplinary action following the escape, though investigators have said they do not think knowledge of the plot went beyond Matt, Sweat and Mitchell.

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Matt and Sweat cut through their adjoining cell walls over months, climbed down catwalks to tunnels, broke through a brick wall, cut into and out of a steam pipe and cut a chain holding a manhole cover outside the prison to get away, authorities said.

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