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Woman who helped convicts escape is sentenced on felony charges

For almost a month this past spring and summer, the nation was held captive to a news story out of northern New York involving the escape of two convicted murderers from a maximum security lockup. An important slice of the story pertained to a prison laundry worker who admitted to providing the two with tools that they used in their escape. The spectacle of the 51-year-old married woman was dramatically intensified by reports that she had apparently become close with both prisoners prior to their escape. The end game came into place on Sept. 28 in a state court when she was sentenced to 2 1/3 years to seven years in prison pursuant to a plea deal on the felony charges she faced.

The court set an additional hearing for November regarding the state's claim for $120,000 in restitution from the woman. In the courtroom, she cried repeatedly and apologized to her former co-workers and to the community for her lapse of judgment and severely skewed decisions. Her judgmental lapse included her agreeing to meet the men after the escape and to act as their getaway driver.

That included an initial planned visit to her home where the two men would kill her husband.  She probably would have gotten a far more severe sentence had she not had a panic attack the day of the escape that resulted in her going to the hospital instead of engaging in the outlandishly dangerous escape scheme.  She was arrested a week later and cooperated with police from her jail cell.

Without a vehicle, the two men changed their original plans to flee to Mexico and instead set out on foot. One was killed and the other captured after three weeks of hiding in the thick forestry of upstate New York. The ultimate result for the woman was relatively benign in comparison to the sentence she could have received on the felony charges had she not backed out on the fatal day of the escape. Defense counsel appears to have done a strong job in guiding the woman through the process and having her cooperate freely with the law enforcement authorities.

Source: syracuse.com, "Joyce Mitchell sentenced to up to 7 years for helping NY prisoners escape", Sept. 28, 2015

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