Joyce Mitchell, the prison seamstress who helped two murderers escape from an upstate New York maximum-security prison in June, was sentenced to two and a third to seven years behind bars on Monday morning.
She will also have to pay $6,000 in fines. Prosecutors are also seeking restitution for the nearly $120,000 it took to fix the walls that David Sweat and Richard Matt broke in order to escape; a hearing to resolve this matter will be held on November 6. Mitchell’s attorney said he believes that other prison workers must have helped the inmates escape, and that Mitchell shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences alone. She accepted a plea bargain that prevented her from facing charges involving the plot to kill her husband and any sexual-assault or rape charges involving her alleged sexual relationship with the inmates.
Mitchell wept during the entire sentencing hearing, often wiping her eyes on her black-and-white-striped jumpsuit. She spoke briefly, apologizing again for her role in the crime, which led to a three-week-long manhunt in the area surrounding the Clinton Correctional Facility. Her husband, Lyle, watched as she offered a final sorry before being immediately sent to prison. “If I could take it all back I would,” she said. “I live with regret every day and will for the rest of my life.” She mouthed “I love you” to Lyle before leaving the courtroom in handcuffs.
“This is by far the worst mistake I have made in my life,” Mitchell added, noting that she only helped Sweat and Matt because they threatened to kill her husband.
“You said you ‘did the wrong thing for the right reasons,’” Judge Kevin K. Ryan said at the Clinton County court. “I just don’t find that explanation credible.”
“A large part of the local population was terrified,” he added. “Many residents did not sleep for many nights … At any time, you could have stopped this from happening.”
David Sweat, the only inmate left alive after the manhunt, also faces charges in the escape plot; he is already serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He is reportedly also thinking about taking a plea deal.