Source: Prison chief, 11 others put on leave after escapes

William Dreyer, attorney for Suspended Clinton Correctional Facility corrections officer Gene Palmer, leaves Plattsburgh Town Court after waving waiving his clients' preliminary hearing Monday, June 29, 2015, in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Palmer faces charges of promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence and official misconduct in connection with the escape of convicted killers Richard Matt and David Sweat. (Gabe Dickens/The Press-Republican via AP)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The superintendent at the northern New York prison where two killers escaped three weeks ago and his deputy in charge of security are among 12 more staff who have been put on administrative leave, officials said Tuesday.

A state official who has been briefed on the matter told The Associated Press that Clinton Correctional Facility Superintendent Steven Racette and Deputy Superintendent Stephen Brown are among those on leave. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said the suspensions are part of the ongoing review of the June 6 escape by convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat. Matt was killed Friday and Sweat wounded and captured Sunday.

The department did not identify the suspended staff. Assistant Commissioner James O’Gorman will oversee the facility temporarily.

Two other staffers — a corrections officer and civilian employee — had been put on leave earlier and now face criminal charges they helped the escapees.

The additional suspensions come as attention turns to a wide-ranging probe of conditions at the maximum-security prison in Dannemora, where Matt and Sweat used power tools to cut holes in their cells and a steam pipe on their way under the walls to a manhole outside.

Soon after the breakout, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott to investigate factors that could have led to the escape.

The inspector general’s investigation is separate from the criminal investigation. The inspector general can subpoena witnesses, examine them under oath and review state documents. Any criminal activity uncovered by the inspector general will be referred to prosecutors.

Cuomo said the inspector general will rely on outside experts in corrections and law enforcement and will recommend potential reforms.

Prosecutors have previously said prison tailor shop employee Joyce Mitchell got close to the men and agreed to be their getaway driver but backed out because she felt guilty. Authorities also have said they discussed killing Mitchell’s husband, matching the newly detailed account provided by Cuomo on the Capitol Pressroom radio program.

“They would kill Mitchell’s husband and then get in the car and drive to Mexico on the theory that Mitchell was in love with one or both of them, and then they would go live happily ever after, which is a fairy tale that I wasn’t read as a child,” the governor said Monday. “When Mitchell doesn’t show up, the Mexico plan gets foiled, and then they head north toward Canada.”

Matt had previously fled to Mexico after killing and dismembering his former boss in 1997.

Sweat was captured Sunday in town of Constable, about 30 miles northwest of the prison, after Sgt. Jay Cook spotted him while on routine patrol. Cook shot Sweat as he fled toward a stand of trees.

Sweat had a bag containing maps, tools, bug repellent and Pop Tarts when he captured. He was unarmed at the time, authorities said.

Mitchell and corrections officer Gene Palmer have been charged in connection with the escape. Mitchell pleaded not guilty June 15 to charges including felony promoting prison contraband.

Palmer is charged with promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence and official misconduct. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing on Monday, clearing the way for potential grand jury action.

Palmer has told investigators he provided Matt and Sweat with tools, paint, frozen hamburger and access to a catwalk electrical box. But he said he never knew of their escape plans.

Sweat had been serving a sentence of life without parole in the killing of a sheriff’s deputy in Broome County in 2002. Matt was serving 25 years to life for the killing and dismembering of his former boss in western New York.

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s