The corrections officer charged with aiding fugitives Richard Matt and David Sweat escape from the Clinton Correctional facility did not appear at a very short court session Thursday afternoon. That was because his legal representation is changing and his court date was delayed.
Corrections veteran Gene Palmer was arrested Wednesday night and charged with promoting Prison Contraband, a felony, two counts of tampering with physical evidence, both felonies, and one count of Official Misconduct, a misdemeanor. He was arraigned Wednesday night in Plattsburgh Town Court and was released after posting $25,000 bail.
Palmer was expected to plead not guilty during a court session before Judge Kevin Patnode Thursday afternoon. But he did not appear at the brief proceeding. Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie explained that it was agreed to delay further action on the case until Monday. “The defendant is retaining a new attorney. Mr. Brockway is still of record his attorney. The court was notified and I believe our office received a fax or an email. It’s a firm out of Albany. Based on that the defendant did not appear. So the case has been adjourned for a control date only on Monday at 4 p.m. back here in the town of Plattsburgh. At that time Mr. Palmer is to appear with either Mr. Dreyer or Mr. Brockway or another attorney that he retains or by himself. But he is required to be here on Monday at 4 o’clock. If he’s not here the court will take whatever action is deemed appropriate at that time.”
Defense attorney Andrew Brockway said he is a small town lawyer with only one assistant and one paralegal and does not have the resources to deal with a high-profile case. He is withdrawing and handing the case over to Albany-based lawyers Dreyer and Boyajian LLP. “I’m a solo practitioner. This is taking a lot of resources. I have one office assistant and one paralegal. This case is getting national attention. There are people parked outside of my house. There’s people going to the office. We’re just not equipped to deal with that. I look forward to helping my clients one at a time. It’s not fair to Gene to stay on this case. I really believe in Mr. Palmer and I think he needs a team of attorneys that have the resources that he’s going to need to fight these charges. I look forward to assisting his new attorneys if I am asked. I’m pulling for him. Mr. Palmer has continued to cooperate. I admire him. I consider him a friend and I wish him nothing but the best”
In his statement to investigators Palmer told investigators that he did provide items to Sweat and Matt. According to the transcript he provided paint and paintbrushes and within the past eight months he gave Sweat: “one 90 degree angled pair of needle nose pliers…. and one flat-head screwdriver…. four to five inches in length…” Palmer also described passing frozen hamburger meat from prison tailor Joyce Mitchell, also facing charges, to Matt. Palmer also says he did not intentionally assist Sweat and Matt in their escape, stating “Matt provided me with elaborate paintings and information on the illegal acts that inmates were committing within the facility. In turn, I provided him with benefits such as paint, paintbrushes, movement of inmates, hamburger meat, altering of electrical boxes in the catwalk area….The altering of the electrical boxes was to enhance their ability to cook in their cells.”
Again District Attorney Wylie: “It may be the normal course of business that was occurring at the jail. It’s improper. It violates the rules and procedures of the Department of Corrections. It violates the penal law of official misconduct. So those are issues that we’re going to deal with. If we need to clarify issues that exist in the jail through the Inspector General’s office, through the investigation that my office with the New York State Police is doing we will continue to do that.”
Friday morning, the Plattsburgh Press-Republican reported that Palmer, who was suspended with pay upon his arrest, has now had his $72,600 salary suspended.
Calls to Dreyer and Boyajian were not returned in time for broadcast.