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North Country News

Sweat Sentenced For Clinton Correctional Escape

Convicted murderer David Sweat, who escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York in June, setting off a 23-day manhunt, was back in court Wednesday. Sweat, who is already serving a life sentence for murder, appeared in Clinton Country Court to face sentencing for the breakout. 
In November, Sweat pleaded guilty to three charges – two counts of escape in the first degree and one charge of promoting prison contraband for possessing hacksaw blades used to cut through cell walls, steam pipes and interior walls of the prison.
 
Defense attorney Joseph Mucia argued that the prisoner is taking full responsibility for his actions and added that Sweat may have saved lives by escaping with Richard Matt, who was later shot and killed by police.    “Mr. Sweat revealed to agents that Mr. Matt threatened to take hostages, to kidnap people and to kill people.  And it was Mr. Sweat who talked down Mr. Matt from doing that.  So I would say that Mr. Sweat saved some lives.”

Shortly thereafter, Sweat stood up to apologize.  “I would like to apologize to the community and the people who felt the fear and felt it necessary to leave their homes or their community because of the escape. That was never my intent, and I deeply apologize for that, your honor."  

Judge Patrick McGill wasn’t buying it.  He called Sweat an intelligent and articulate person who keeps making stupid decisions.   “I don’t know what you were thinking.  You seem to indicate that you tried to escape to show the shortcomings of the correctional system or as a protest for the treatment received from correction officers. Maybe if you had expended the energy you expended in escaping to reform the program and conditions in the prison it might have changed the outcome. But I think it was simply another stupid decision.”

McGill called the sentencing anti-climactic since Sweat is already serving life without parole and is currently serving six years of solitary confinement with loss of privileges.  Sweat was sentenced to 3 ½ to 7 years on each of two counts of escape in the first degree and one count of promoting prison contraband.  All will be imposed consecutively to his life without parole sentence.

The judge also ordered that Sweat pay restitution of $79,841.  Mucia told the court it would be better to seek recompense from the two other individuals convicted or charged in the case.   “Mr. Sweat, he has no resources whatsoever.  So I believe the order of restitution is better placed on Mrs. Mitchell and Mr. Palmer.”

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie revealed that during an in-chambers conference prior to sentencing, Sweat attempted to withdraw his guilty plea but the court denied the request.  “Mr. Sweat spoke in chambers that it was a matter of duress, threats, that the circumstances that existed in Clinton Correctional Facility caused him to escape. And he felt that that was a possible defense that he would have at trial. No threat, no duress, when he was taken back into custody on June 28th.”  

Wylie added that there are no documented complaints from Sweat.   “I have no information from the Department of Corrections or from the Inspector General’s office that David Sweat ever filed a complaint about the way he was treated.  There is the one incident where he was removed from the tailor shop, which Joyce Mitchell was his supervising civilian. So there is a complaint relative to that,  that he indicated he was falsely accused.  But that is the only complaint that he has made that I am aware of. I am not aware of any other issue which he addressed with Judge McGill in an attempt to withdraw his plea.”

Before Sweat left the courtroom he signed a Notice of Appeal.  It is standard practice in criminal cases that allows a defendant to file an appeal in the future if he so chooses.

If Sweat appeals, the case would be heard in the Appellate Court in Albany.
 

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