© 2023 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

David Sweat, already serving a life sentence, faces charges for escaping

Zach Hirsch
NCPR File Photo
Convicted murderer David Sweat had his first public court appearance in Plattsburgh on Thursday.

David Sweat was in court yesterday for the first time since being captured. He’s one of the two convicted murderers who broke out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora back in June, sparking an intensive manhunt that lasted for more than three weeks.

The other inmate, Richard Matt, was shot and killed by a border patrol tactical team.

Sweat is now being prosecuted for the crime of escaping.

Before the manhunt, Sweat was already serving a sentence of life without parole for murdering a sheriff’s deputy.

For escaping, he now faces up to 14 years behind bars and up to $15,000 in fines.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie was asked, what’s the point of pursing these charges when he already has a life sentence?

“They committed a crime of escape in the first degree. And it’s my job as a prosecutor in this county to prosecute the people that commit crimes within this county,” Wylie said.

In the courtroom in Plattsburgh, Sweat wore a green jumpsuit and a sling around his right arm. His hands and ankles were shackled.

Sweat appeared calm, and looked around the room with widened eyes. He didn’t say a word in public.

His court-appointed attorney, Joe Mucia, did not enter a plea. So the judge entered “not guilty” on Sweat’s behalf.

Mucia spoke with reporters outside the courthouse after his client was taken back to prison.

“I’ve only known Mr. Sweat for about an hour,” he said. “If I were to enter a plea on his behalf – I don’t even know what his intentions are at this point.”

Mucia said Sweat was “in a good mood,” and he was surprised when he met the convicted killer.

“I was expecting a different type of personality. He was much more subdued than I thought that he was going to be.”

He said he’s not sure whether he’ll work out a settlement with the prosecutor, or if the case will go to trial.

“That’s not up to me. That’s a decision that’s up to my client,” he said.  

Two prison employees have been arrested in connection with the break out. Joyce Mitchell, a former prison tailor shop instructor, has pleaded guilty to helping David Sweat and Richard Matt by bringing them small tools and offering to be their getaway driver. Her sentencing is on September 28th.

Corrections officer Gene Palmer also allegedly smuggled in small contraband. He’s pleaded not guilty. District Attorney Andrew Wylie said he’s negotiating a deal with Palmer’s council.

Sweat is being held in solitary confinement at Five Points Correctional Facility near Ithaca. Mucia said he hopes to negotiate arrangements that are “more hospitable” for his client.