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US Prison Worker Pleads Guilty to Helping Murderers Escape

FILE - Joyce Mitchell, accused of smuggling contraband into the prison from which two convicts escaped, is arraigned in City Court in Plattsburgh, New York, June 12, 2015.

A U.S. prison worker pleaded guilty Tuesday of smuggling hacksaw blades and drill bits in frozen hamburger meat to two convicted murderers who staged a brazen escape last month from a maximum-security prison in New York state.

Joyce Mitchell, 51, a seamstress at the prison near the U.S.-Canadian border, wore a black-and-white prison jumpsuit and wiped away tears as she pleaded guilty to two charges that carry up to a seven-year prison term. She will be sentenced in September.

District Attorney Andrew Wylie said separate cases against surviving escapee David Sweat and Gene Palmer, a guard whom investigators accused of unwittingly helping the two inmates, are expected to go before a grand jury next month.

"At this time, there are no other individuals who have been identified through the investigation as being involved directly or indirectly'' with the June 6 escape, Wylie said.

Mitchell "realizes that she made a horrible mistake," her attorney, Stephen Johnston, told reporters.

"She got in over her head into something that she never should have started. But she did, and she's paying the price now,'' Johnston told reporters outside court. "I think that to a certain extent, [escapee Richard] Matt got her to feeling good about herself, better than she had for a period of time, and she was swept off her feet a bit. ... And then when she realized who she was dealing with, everything changed.''

The daring escape captivated U.S. television viewers for three weeks as authorities searched for the two killers. They escaped after cutting through the steel walls of their cells, climbing down a catwalk and through a steam pipe before emerging from a manhole outside the prison in Dannemora, New York.

Authorities said Mitchell had originally agreed to pick up the two prisoners in a getaway car but backed out at the last minute, leaving the two escapees to flee on foot into a densely wooded area.

After a massive manhunt, Matt was shot and killed by searchers June 26, about 30 miles west of the prison. Sweat was captured near the Canadian border two days later and was sent to another prison.

Investigators also said Mitchell had discussed killing her husband, Lyle Mitchell, as part of the plot. Lyle Mitchell was in court Tuesday and declined to speak with a reporter.

Some information for this report came from AP.