N.Y. inmate gets maximum sentence for daring prison escape

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2016 11:08 AM

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A convicted killer whose daring escape last year from an upstate New York prison triggered a massive three-week manhunt received a maximum sentence on Wednesday, after apologizing in court for his actions.

David Sweat pleaded guilty to two counts of escape and one of promoting prison contraband in November, five months after he was shot and captured about two miles from the Canadian border.

Sweat and fellow inmate Richard Matt broke out of the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, on June 6, using hacksaw blades hidden in frozen hamburger meat as part of an elaborate escape plan.

A federal agent shot and killed Matt on June 26, two days before a state trooper shot Sweat twice. The escape prompted hundreds of law enforcement officers to spend weeks searching the heavily wooded region near the prison.

Sweat's new sentence, which could be as long as 14 years, is largely a formality, since he is already serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for killing a law enforcement officer after a robbery.

Before the sentence was imposed, Sweat told Clinton Supreme Court Justice Patrick McGill he was sorry to have caused fear among residents in the community.

"That was never my intent," he said. "I deeply apologize for that, Your Honor."

But McGill said the escape had put hundreds of people in harm's way while requiring authorities to expend enormous resources to recapture him.

Sweat is currently serving a six-year stint in solitary confinement, his lawyer said.

Prosecutors have accused two prison workers of helping the inmates escape. Joyce Mitchell, who worked in the prison's tailor shop, was sentenced to 2-1/3 to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to supplying the men with tools.

Correction officer Gene Palmer has pleaded not guilty to several charges.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by James Dalgleish)