(YONKERS, N.Y.) — The two convicted murderers who escaped from an upstate New York prison have been on the loose so long they could be in Mexico by now, but police are following every lead they get, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.
“The truth is that is the nature of the business,” Cuomo said. You follow up every tip, you follow up every lead. You are as conscientious as you can be on every lead because you never know which one is going to be the one.
“We don’t know if they’re still in the area or if they are in Mexico by now, right? Enough time has transpired,” he said. “But we’re following up every lead the best we can.”
Cuomo also touched on the “delicate balance” regarding relationships between prison workers and inmates, after a district attorney said the prison employee charged with aiding the two in their escape was supposed to meet the pair and drive them to an undisclosed area about seven hours away.
“I understand prisons run on a delicate balance,” Cuomo said. “And having a good relationship between the guards and the inmates, guards and the employees, employees and the inmates is important. But, there’s a line. And when the line is stepped, then action has to be taken.”
Clinton Correctional Facility employee Joyce Mitchell had planned to meet Richard Matt and David Sweat at a power plant near the prison the night of their escape, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said. Mitchell wasn’t told where she was then driving them, but knew it was going to be a wooded area about seven hours away, where a four-wheel drive would be needed, Wylie said.
But she never showed up to meet the escaped inmates, instead checking into a hospital 40 minutes away complaining of a panic attack, said sources familiar with the case.
Cuomo said Sunday a state employee facilitating a crime “is a crime in and of itself.”
“And that will be fully prosecuted as a crime, in and of itself,” he said. “We will have zero tolerance for that.”
Mitchell, 51, was arrested Friday and charged with promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation for allegedly helping Matt and Sweat escape from Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6.
Matt, 48, and Sweat, 35, had been rehearsing their escape for five weeks, said Wylie, who added that Mitchell had provided them with blades they had been using to cut through the back of their cell.
According to a criminal complaint, Mitchell gave Matt and Sweat hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and screwdriver bit last month. Wylie said she also gave Matt speed bag gloves — like those used in boxing — and glasses and batteries last year after meeting him in October 2013.
Matt was serving 25 years to life in prison after he kidnapped and beat a man to death in 1997. Sweat was serving a life sentence after he was convicted of killing a Broome County sheriff’s deputy in 2002.
Authorities believe one or both men had a cellphone in prison, Wylie said. He added that Mitchell told investigators she did not provide a cellphone to either of the men and the investigation has not found that they had cellphones.
Mitchell has pleaded not guilty.
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