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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Escaped Killer Draws No Sympathy From NY Court

A convicted killer whose 2015 escape from an upstate New York prison set off a 23-day manhunt failed Thursday to overturn his latest convictions.

MANHATTAN (CN) –  A convicted killer whose 2015 escape from an upstate New York prison set off a 23-day manhunt failed Thursday to overturn his latest convictions.

Already serving a life sentence for the 2002 murder of a sheriff’s deputy, David Sweat is facing an additional 7 to 14 years behind bars for fleeing the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, with fellow murderer Richard Matt on June 6, 2015.

The brazen flight, made possible by a love triangle between the men and prison employee Joyce Mitchell, provoked widespread alarm, handwringing by state politicians, and two true-crime dramatizations.

Showtime began production last year on “Escape at Dannemora,” a star-studded miniseries directed by Ben Stiller, while Lifetime tapped “Kindergarten Cop” alum Penelope Ann Mitchell for its version, “NY Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell.”

An upstate appeals court concluded Thursday, however, that a Hollywood ending for Sweat would be incompatible with the law.

Though Sweat pleaded guilty after his capture, he claimed on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to let him withdraw that plea.

“Here, the record establishes that defendant was aware of the nature of the plea agreement, including the constitutional rights that he was forfeiting as a result of the plea agreement, and that he had an opportunity to discuss the consequences of the plea with his counsel,” Judge Sharon Aarons wrote for the Third Judicial Department of the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division.

“As the record demonstrates that defendant entered a knowing, voluntary and intelligent plea, and he has made no showing of innocence, fraud or mistake in the inducement, we find that county court did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion to withdraw his plea without a hearing,” Aarons added.

Four judges concurred in the 3-page opinion, which also upholds Sweat’s sentence, now being carried out at Attica.

“To the extent that defendant challenges his sentence as harsh and excessive, we note that the issue is academic inasmuch as the sentence is to run consecutively to the sentence he is currently serving, which is life without parole,” Aarons wrote.

“In any event, in imposing the maximum sentence, county court considered the serious nature of the offense, the trauma and fear instilled in the community during the weeks it took to apprehend defendant and the considerable resources and expense involved in his recapture.”

The 1,000-officer manhunt to apprehend Sweat and Matt is reported to have cost New York $23 million in officer overtime.

In 2016, New York Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott commissioned a 154-page report analyzing how the men escaped, detailing systemic security lapses inside the prison.

“The extent of complacency and failure to adhere to the most basic security standards uncovered by my investigation was egregious and inexcusable,” Scott said in a statement at the time. “These systemic deficiencies led to the escape of two convicted murderers, striking fear in communities and placing brave law enforcement personnel at risk, at a high cost to the state.”

Sweat’s attorney Matthew Hug did not immediately respond to a telephone request for comment.

Plattsburgh District Attorney Andrew Wylie, whose jurisdiction include Sweat’s prison, declined to comment on the court’s ruling.

Categories / Appeals

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