The attorney for Clinton Correctional Facility correction officer Gene Palmer told the Plattsburgh Press-Republican on Wednesday his client unwittingly delivered some of the tools used by convicted killers Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 35, to escape. They were hidden in a package of frozen meat delivered on May 29, one week before they broke out from the Dannemora, New York prison on the evening of June 5.
“Prison tailor shop supervisor Joyce Mitchell, who has been charged with helping Matt and Sweat escape, asked Palmer on Friday, May 29, to get a package of frozen meat from a freezer and deliver it to Matt’s cell the next day, [attorney Andrew] Brockway said,” the Press-Republican reported.
“The package [with the frozen meat] measured about 12 inches long, 5 inches wide and 2 inches high. It was in a Styrofoam container with cellophane wrap and had no store sticker,” Brockway told the Press-Republican on Wednesday.
Brockway added that Palmer “didn’t know saw blades were hidden in a package of frozen meat he delivered to inmate Richard Matt a week before the escape.”
“It was a one-time thing,” Brockway told the Press-Republican, noting that “Palmer even passed a polygraph regarding the meat delivery.”
Joyce Mitchell, the 51-year-old civilian employee at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York who has been arrested for helping Matt and Sweat escape on the evening of June 5, “admitted to putting hacksaw blades and drill bits into a hunk of hamburger meat, according to the prosecutor. Palmer could have put it through metal detector but he didn’t, which was a violation of prison policy, [Clinton County District Attorney Andrew] Wylie said,” according to CNN.
On Wednesday, Brockway offered more details to the local newspaper of record. According to the Press-Republican:
Palmer said guards would often do small favors in order to get information about prison fights, Brockway said, and the delivery was part of developing that relationship.
“They have to build some trust in that culture,” the attorney said.
Palmer’s role in delivering the tool-embedded frozen meat to the convicts was first confirmed by Brockway to CNN on Tuesday.
“Before he handed off the meat, he asked if there was anything wrong with it and she said no,” Brockway told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“The only mistake he made was trusting Joyce Mitchell,” Brockway added.
But several retired correction officers who worked at the Clinton Correctional Facility tell Breitbart News that Palmer clearly made a mistake.
“Gene definitely disregarded all of the instructional training provided to us on a yearly basis, reminding us on how convicts plays games and try to get you to violate the rules,” one retired corrections officer tells Breitbart News.
Another retired corrections officer tells Breitbart News he is “totally surprised” by the revelation.
“Just a sad state of affairs,” a third retired corrections officer tells Breitbart News. “You never ever bring anything into the jail. A sandwich for yourself and that is it. What Joyce Mitchell did is just horrible but then Palmer added to it and delivered the tools to the guys .This should never have happened and I don’t feel badly for either of them. They deserve what they get.”
According to CNN, District Attorney “Wylie said prosecutors also believe Palmer didn’t know” about the embedded tools in the frozen meat.
Palmer was placed on paid administrative leave on Friday and questioned for 14 hours on Saturday by New York State Police, with his attorney present.
He has not been arrested or charged with a crime. Sources close to the investigation, however, tell Breitbart News charges may be imminent.
But Brockway told the Press-Republican on Wednesday prosecutors may have a difficult time bringing charges against Palmer:
He does not believe Palmer will be charged for making the delivery since he did know what was in it. But he could not say for sure.
“I think they will have a hard time charging him with aiding and abetting an escape,” Brockway said.
In addition to potential legal charges, Palmer is likely to face administrative hearings, which could result in his dismissal.
Despite calling Palmer’s delivery of the tool-embedded frozen meat to the convicts a mistake that broke the rules, all the correction officers with whom Breitbart News spoke continue to maintain that Palmer is being scapegoated for being manipulated by the convicts and Joyce Mitchell to provide the first tools needed to enable the escape.
The smuggling of the tools that enabled them to cut through their cell walls, they say, was but one of many flaws in the system.
“Everything rolls down hill,” one retired correction officer tells Breitbart News.
Another retired correction wonders about the timeline of the complex escape. The first step in the escape involved cutting through the cell walls, but, the retired correction officer notes, that was just the beginning.
There was a lot of work done in that one week prior to the escape, the retired correction officer adds. In addition, the escape itself took place in the seven hours between the night check at 10:30 PM on June 5 and the morning check at 5:30 AM on June 6.
In addition to cutting through the cell walls using the small tools smuggled in on May 29, the escaped convicts had to break through a brick wall, cut through a steam pipe, and cut through the padlocks of the manhole cover from which they emerged on the late evening of June 5/early morning of June 6.
“It’s hard to think they were able to do all that on their own, without additional help,” the retired correction officer tells Breitbart News. “Those cuts on the steam pipe were very professionally done, and I have not seen anywhere that these convicts had the training to do that quality work.”
As for the flaw in the system in which Gene Palmer was involved, another retired correction officer has his own theories.
As he tells Breitbart News “I have no doubt that Gene got himself caught up in . . . trying to impress his fellow peers and supervisors.”
The retired correction officer then explains why he makes that observation.
“During my years in the department I never played with cons,” he tells Breitbart News. “By playing, I mean forgetting where I was and who they were. But a few of the employees who think they are tougher and/or smarter than the con, try to play, whether it is of the physical nature and/or of the clandestine information gathering nature, or what some call RATS,” the retired correction officer adds.
“By physical nature I mean that inmates would love to push your buttons, initially verbally and then confronting you (not complying ) to see where your breaking point is and if you place your hands on them after minor provocations, well let the best man win. Most of the time staff won, but not all the time,” the retired officer notes.
“By RATS I mean, the con provides you with little bits of information regarding another inmate or something that may happen (drugs weapons, sex ect..) and after several times of proving their accuracy, they gain some trust. Well sooner or later the giving has to receive and this forms the problem. Not unlike in the outside world where DAs and prosecutors let criminals slide on minor (or sometimes) major crimes, with the goal of catching a bigger fish,” the retired officer says.
“Inside all walls similar situations occur, on a much lesser scale, whether it’s candy bars, extra time out of your cell, changes in cell locations, and even TV permits.”
“I have no doubt that Gene got himself caught up in . . . trying to impress his fellow peers and supervisors on how he was able to obtain such information. Please don’t forget this behavior was being—if not outright condoned at best overlooked—for the greater good.”
“All along forgetting the adage ‘Nothing is for free,’” the retired correction officer tells Breitbart News.
“It appears that Matt and Sweat’s goal was achieved lulling those around them to sleep. They say ‘How could it happen?'”
“For all my years that is all I and I know many of us think daily about—‘When will it happen?’”
“As we leave everyday at the end of our shift we were more than glad it didn’t happen. Well it happened and as I am noting these could be some of those reasons why,” the retired correction officer notes.
His reaction to the news of Gene Palmer’s unwitting role, the former correction officer says, is that of “a very, very sad retired employee.”