Guard arrested for aiding convicts faces arraignment
Plattsburgh, N.Y. — A prison guard charged in connection with the escape of two killers admitted providing them with tools, paint, frozen hamburger and access to a catwalk electrical box, but claims he never knew they planned to bust out, authorities say.
As the search for the convicts entered its 20th day Thursday, Gene Palmer was released on $25,000 bail after his arrest on charges of promoting prison contraband, tampering with evidence and official misconduct.
Palmer, 57, became the second Clinton Correctional Facility employee to be charged since Richard Matt and David Sweat used power tools to cut their way out of the maximum-security prison in far northern New York on June 6.
Prison tailor shop instructor Joyce Mitchell, 51, stands charged with helping them break out.
But in contrast to the allegations against Mitchell, Palmer said he was an unwitting helper.
"I did not realize at the time that the assistance provided to Matt or Sweat made their escape easier," he told authorities in a signed statement.
District Attorney Andrew Wylie said that based on Palmer's statements and a polygraph test, investigators have no reason to believe he was knowingly involved in the escape.
In the statement, Palmer admitted providing Matt with paint and paintbrushes. On four occasions over eight months, he supplied Sweat with needle-nose pliers and a screwdriver.
He said he gave Sweat access to the catwalk later used in the escape to change the wiring on electrical boxes as "a favor" to make it easier for them to cook in their cells.
And a week before the escape, he delivered to Matt a pound of frozen ground beef in a package left by Mitchell.
Wylie said Mitchell told investigators she smuggled hacksaw blades, a screwdriver and other tools into the prison by hiding them in the frozen meat.
She then put the meat in a refrigerator in the tailor shop, and Palmer took the meat to Sweat and Matt, who were housed in a section where inmates are allowed to cook their meals, the district attorney said.
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