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North Country News

David Sweat In Court To Enter Pleas To Escape Charges

The convicted murderer who escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York in June, setting off a 23-day manhunt, was back in court today. David Sweat, who is already serving a life sentence for murder, returned for his second appearance in Clinton Country Court to plead guilty to charges related to the breakout. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley was in court.   
A shackled David Sweat appeared before Judge Patrick McGill Friday morning to enter pleas to three charges – two counts of escape in the first degree and a charge of promoting prison contraband for possessing hacksaw blades.  The judge asked Sweat to enter his plea on each charge.
McGill:  “The indictment that’s before the court charges you in the first count with escape in the first degree. How do you plead?”
Sweat:  “Guilty.”
McGill:  “The second count charges you with escape in the first degree and states that you in the state of New York sometime from on or about June 6, 2015 escaped from custody.  Is that true?”
Sweat: “Yes.”
McGill:  “And with regard to the charge of escape in the first degree as set forth in the second count how do you plead?”
Sweat:  “Guilty.”
McGill:  “The third count charging you with promoting prison contraband consisting of hacksaw blades, how do you plead?”
Sweat:  “Guilty.”

Defense attorney Joseph Mucia says Sweat, who is already serving a life without parole sentence for murder and is now in solitary confinement, was ready to take responsibility for his actions.   “He looked upon this decision as getting a burden off of his chest and finally taking responsibility for what occurred. If he wanted we could’ve got a trial date. We would’ve had a trial. It would’ve gotten him out of the special housing unit.  But I think it was a slam dunk the case against him.  That’s what I advised him.  He was in prison on June 6th and then he was out of prison the next day. It’s not a very complicated case. So he decided to waive that right to go to trial and plead guilty.”

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie appeared relieved, saying it brings a conclusion to the matter of the people vs. David Sweat following the June escape from Clinton Correctional.   “There really weren’t any negotiations in the case and it was my point through this whole process that he’s going to plea to three charges or he’s gonna go to trial. I understand everybody’s position on, you know, if this case goes to trial it’s going to cost the county thousands and thousands of dollars.  Well I was ready and willing and able to do that if necessary.  I didn’t think in the end that we would have to do that and I had no indication from Mr. Sweat or from his attorney relative to that.  It was just my belief in the case looking at David Sweat’s background.  His history of how he handled cases in the past with his criminal history that this case eventually would result in a plea.”

The charges are Class D felonies that carry 2 1/3 to 7 years or 3 ½ to 7-year sentences that could be imposed consecutively.  

Wylie is also seeing as much restitution as possible to recoup the cost of repairing the two cell walls, steam pipe and interior wall of the tunnel system at Clinton Correctional damaged when Matt and Sweat escaped.  The District Attorney intends, at Sweat’s sentencing, to make a request for joint restitution of $79,841 from Sweat. Joyce Mitchell, who is currently serving a sentence for her role in the escape,  has already been ordered to pay the restitution.

Sweat, who is incarcerated at the Five Points Correctional Facility in Seneca County, is scheduled to return to Clinton County Court on February 3 for sentencing.

On Thursday, Franklin County Acting District Attorney Glenn MacNeill concluded that law enforcement officials were justified in shooting and killing Richard Matt on June 26th and wounding Sweat two days later to end the three-week manhunt.
 

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