By Pete DeMola
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Reuters) - One of the convicted killers who led law enforcement on an intense three-week manhunt after escaping a maximum-security prison in upstate New York pleaded not guilty to an escape charge on Thursday.
David Sweat, 35, in his first court appearance since the June 6 breakout from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, appeared for his arraignment in a green prison jumpsuit, his right arm in a sling, in the courtroom at Clinton County Government Center in Plattsburgh.
"Yes, I do," Sweat said when asked by Judge Patrick McGill whether he understood his legal counsel would be Plattsburgh attorney Joseph Mucia.
The judge then entered a plea of not guilty to a charge of first-degree escape on behalf of Sweat, who was serving a life sentence without parole at Clinton.
Sweat faces disciplinary charges by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision for the prison break, according to a department statement in July.
The department had said Sweat could remain in an isolation cell for an extended length of time or be subject to other penalties.
Sweat was shot and captured by law enforcement on June 28 near the Canadian border days after his accomplice, Richard Matt, 49, was shot and killed by a federal agent.
Matt and Sweat, who were both convicted of murder, cut holes in their cell walls, climbed down a catwalk and navigated through a steam pipe, emerging from a manhole outside prison walls on June 6.
Two Clinton Correctional employees have been charged in connection with the escape. Authorities accused prison tailor shop supervisor Joyce Mitchell, 51, of smuggling tools to the pair and corrections officer Gene Palmer, 57, of helping them get behind prison walls to hide contraband.
At least a dozen Clinton personnel have been placed on administrative leave following the escape. The prison's superintendent, Steven Racette, retired on July 31.
(Additional reporting by Katie Reilly; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Lisa Lambert)