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Woman Who Aided Escaped Prisoners Back In Court

Pat Bradley/WAMC
Clinton Correctional

With hundreds of law enforcement officers continuing their search in northern New York, the woman charged with aiding escaped murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat was back in court this morning with a new lawyer.         

Clinton County Correctional employee Joyce Mitchell was arrested and arraigned Friday night and charged with helping the fugitives escape by providing them with hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and screwdriver bit. NYS Police Troop B Commander Major Charles Guess announced the charges.  “She has been charged with promoting prison contraband first degree a class D felony and criminal facilitation fourth degree a class A misdemeanor.”

Monday morning, Mitchell was in Plattsburgh City court, which has jurisdiction over state and some county matters, after spending the weekend in Rensselaer County jail, where she was moved for safety reasons.

Mitchell was originally represented by Keith Bruno.  Due to an unspecified conflict of interest, he asked to be removed from the case. Local attorney Stephen Johnston has taken the case.

Wearing a flak jacket, the defendant made a very short court appearance with her new lawyer.  “We’re going to waive the preliminary felony hearing.”  The judge states:  “Then the matter will be transferred to county court and your next court date will come from the county court.  Anything to add Mr. Wylie?”

District Attorney Andrew Wylie responded “No.”  The judge then concludes the hearing “Okay then we’re adjourned for today.”

Following the hearing, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie explained what the waiver meant.  “The waiving of the charges means is that it moves from Plattsburgh City Court up into county court.  When you have a felony charge that felony can only be disposed of here in this local court if we reduce it to a misdemeanor.  At this point in time we’re keeping the felony. We keeping the misdemeanor charge and they’ll be prosecuted in county court.”

No one else is has been arrested in conjunction with the escape, but Wylie did not discount the possibility there could be more.  “Based on our investigations there’s additional other people that may be arrested based on the information that we continue to receive on a daily basis. I going to go right here on the record right now relative to the issues that you all have been putting forth to me on the truth of statements that she may have made to law enforcement agents or that somebody else may have made to law enforcement agents about an agreement between Joyce Mitchell and both Matt and Sweat as to whether they were going to take any type of physical action to harm Lyle Mitchell. I’m not going to comment on that.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday morning that he has directed the state Inspector General to look into the escape. Wylie expects his office will have some level of involvement.  “We will be involved as much as they involve us, I’ll put it that way. There are issues that we certainly have that we’ll be discussing with the IG’s office and with the governor’s office and we will proceed accordingly.”

Mitchell was taken to the Clinton County Jail following the court session.

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