Tip Line: 414-777-5808 | newsdesk@cbs58.com

2nd prison worker arrested in NY escape to appear in court

A prison guard accused of helping two murderers escape from prison is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.

Gene Palmer is charged with delivering tools to David Sweat and Richard Matt, tools they used to break out of the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in far northern New York almost three weeks ago, reports CBS News correspondent Anna Werner.

Palmer will plead not guilty at his arraignment, his lawyer, Andrew Brockway, told CBS News. Brockway says fellow suspect and prison worker Joyce Mitchell took advantage of Palmer.

Palmer worked at the prison for 27 years. He was suspended and put on paid leave last week, and has since been questioned about his relationship with the two escapees. Palmer was arrested Wednesday night on charges he may have unknowingly helped the two men escape. He's charged with destroying evidence, promoting dangerous prison contraband, and official misconduct. Brockway says Palmer \"is a man of integrity. He knows that he made a mistake.\" Palmer \"did not know that Joyce Mitchell had conned him into giving contraband to these two individuals,\" Brockway insists.

District Attorney Andrew Wylie says Mitchell, a civilian employee, has admitted smuggling tools into the prison. \"She put the hacksaw blades (the inmates used in breaking out), put the other screwdriver bits in hamburger, froze it and then brought it into the facility,\" Wylie says. ... The correction officer, Gene Palmer, came, collected it and then brought it to Matt.\" Asked if he believes Palmer did that unwittingly, Wylie replied, \"Yes. Without knowing that the tools were inside the meat.\"

Palmer is also alleged to have escorted the inmates out onto a catwalk behind their adjoining cells to fix electrical breakers so they could use hot plates. Now, 19 days later, more than 1,000 heavily armed law enforcement officers are concentrating their search on a rugged 75 square mile section of Franklin County, New York.

State Police Major Charles Guess says, \"We have virtually 100 percent assurance that they were in that area.\" Police say DNA evidence linked the convicts to a cabin some 20 miles west of the prison. Investigators tell CBS News they believe the fugitives may have taken a shotgun from the cabin.

\"Just about every cabin or outbuilding in the north country has one or more shotguns or weapons,\" Guess said. \"We have since Day One operated under the belief that these men are armed. They're extremely cunning; why wouldn't they try to arm themselves immediately upon escape?\"

Palmer was released early Thursday morning after posting $25,000 bail he put on his credit card, a correction guard at the local jail told CBS News. If convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 1-1/3 to 4 years on the felonies of tampering with physical evidence and 2-1/3 to 7 years on the charge of promoting prison contraband. He's actually facing more charges than Mitchell, Werner points out.

Share this article: