David Sweat Makes First Appearance In Clinton County Court Since Recapture
The surviving escapee from the Clinton Correctional Facility who was captured after a 23-day manhunt in June was in Clinton County Court this morning facing charges related to the prison break. As WAMC’s Pat Bradley reports, the brief proceeding marked the first time David Sweat was seen in public since being wounded at the end of the chase.
David Sweat escaped from the Dannemora, New York facility with fellow inmate Richard Matt on June 6. Matt was killed on June 26th while Sweat was shot and captured two days later.
Sweat, in green prison garb, entered the courtroom in shackles. He had a sling on his right arm and was surrounded by guards.
Judge Patrick McGill entered not guilty pleas for Sweat after defense attorney Joe Mucia waived a reading of the indictment. “Mr. Mucia do you wish to have the indictment read?” Attorney Joe Mucia responded: “Good morning your honor. At this time we waive a reading of the indictment.”
McGill: “Does the defendant wish to enter a plea at this time?”
Mucia: “Ah, not at this time your honor.”
McGill: “We enter a plea of not guilty on behalf of the defendant. The court will remand the defendant without bail.”
Sweat is charged with two counts of escape in the first degree and promoting prison contraband, all felonies. The escape charges are two elements of the same crime delineating that he escaped from a detention facility and that he escaped from custody. The contraband refers to the hacksaw blades Sweat used to escape.
After the short proceedings Sweat was immediately transported back to the Five Points Correctional Facility, where he has been held since he was recaptured.
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie says although Sweat is already serving life without parole for murder, the bottom line is he committed a crime that must be prosecuted. “The status of a new conviction for escape in the first degree and promoting prison contraband could result in the Department of Corrections treating him in a more severe way than they currently would had he not escaped. He would be subject to those conditions that the Department of Corrections would establish and set on him which would be special housing. He’s currently I believe in special housing now limited to 23 hours a day in his cellblock.”
Sweat’s court-appointed attorney, Mucia, allowed the judge to enter a plea for his client. Mucia said he was offered the opportunity to represent Sweat at about 9:30 Thursday morning and met him for the first time an hour later in the courtroom. “I need the opportunity to speak with my client directly. Then I need to speak with the D.A.’s office. Then I need to see the evidence against my client. If my client made any statements I need to take a look at those statements. I need to see if he did in fact make a statement was he under arrest at the time? Did he ask for counsel? This is a case where, according to reports, Mr. Sweat was shot. So did he make statements in the hospital bed? Did he have a clear mind? Did he ask for an attorney? All those things are very, very important for me to find out before I can assess the strength of the case and whether or not to advise my client to plead guilty or not guilty.”
Sweat faces maximum sentences of 3 1-2 to 7 years on each of the new charges.
The next court proceeding in Sweat’s case is scheduled for September 29th at 1:30.