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Clinton County District Attorney Discusses Aftermath Of Manhunt

Pat Bradley/WAMC
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie

The two men who escaped from the Clinton Correctional facility in Dannemora on June 6th  have been caught after a three-week manhunt. Richard Matt was shot dead Friday and David Sweat was shot and captured Sunday.  Now comes one of the lengthier challenges – the prosecution of the surviving fugitive.  The escape occurred in two counties and therefore any crimes Matt and Sweat committed while on the lam must be coordinated by two district attorneys.  That’s what WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley learned when she spoke with Clinton County D.A. Andrew Wylie Sunday after Sweat’s capture.

Sweat was captured less than two miles from the Canadian border by Sergeant Jay Cook.  The trooper shot Sweat twice in the torso as he tried to evade the officer and  run into a heavily treed area.  Following initial treatment at a local hospital, Sweat is now listed in serious condition at Albany Medical Center.

He will be returned to the North Country to be prosecuted for the daring escape. But for the moment Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie says any action will  wait until he is released from the hospital.  "We’re going to wait until he’s medically discharged from the hospital.  Once he's medically discharged then we have to coordinate with all of our law enforcement agencies to have him brought back up - back here to Plattsburgh, and also to Malone.  He'll probably have to answer charges in Malone relative to any of the burglaries that occurred and that D.A. McNeill may charge him with. Once that's coordinated then we'll be able to move forward with the process of our charges in Clinton County with the escape.  The primary charge that we have in Clinton County is the Escape First Degree. It's a D Felony, punishable by 2 1/3 to 7 if he was a first time felon. Obviously he's not. He's a second felony offender so he's looking at a 3 1/2 to 7 year sentence.
Will he be arraigned in the hospital?  "No. In all likelihood we will just continue to have his medical treatment provided. Once that's concluded he's discharged. He'll remain in custody. There'll be supervision, obviously, of him at the medical center and then he'll be transported back up here to both Plattsburgh and all likelihood Malone for court."

How critical will his being alive be to the furtherance of the investigation?  "It could be very critical, providing us with information as far as how the escape occurred. What the foundation or the basis of it was.  Who if anyone else assisted him and Richard Matt in the escape.  He does not have to talk to us whatsoever. He may make that decision not to speak to law enforcement, not to speak with my office relative to the escape and what occurred prior to and since June 6th.  Time will tell whether he will or not."

Are we going to see a special grand juries called for this, or will it even need grand juries? "Well it will need grand jury action, but not a special grand jury.  I have a grand jury term that was brought in on Wednesday, I think it was. So we're ready to submit this to a grand jury."

What kind of strain is this putting on the resources of your office?  "My office there has been enormous not only financial strain but also the work environment in my office.  I've been primarily focused on this matter since June 6th and my staff has been covering the normal everyday ongoings of the court proceedings. I've been dealing with those as well as I normally do but there's been a lot of strain financially as well that our cooperation with law enforcement and what we've had to do.  Supply the law enforcement officers with subpoenas, warrants that have been placed into effect by the judges.  So there's been a lot of strain physically, mentally and financially."

D.A. Wylie said the escape and subsequent search is costing his office thousands of dollars. He expects the governor’s and comptroller’s offices will assess cumulative cross-agency expenses.

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