What Was Joyce Mitchell's Role In The New York Prison Break? The Prison Employee Reportedly Got Cold Feet

With two escaped prisoners still on the run, prison employee Joyce Mitchell, the woman charged with helping them escape, made a brief court appearance on Monday. David Sweat and Richard Matt, both convicted killers, broke out of the state prison in Dannemora, New York, using power tools in the middle of the night, in a plan that authorities believe must have required some outside help. That help, prosecutors said, came from Mitchell.

Mitchell's first attorney dropped her case on Monday citing a conflict of interest, so her new lawyer barely had time to review the case, CNN reported. Mitchell, who wore a black-and-white striped prison uniform, said nothing except "yes" and "no" to the judge's questions during the hearing, and will remain in jail unless she can post bond, according to CNN.

Prosecutors said Mitchell, who worked in the prison's tailor shop, supplied the men with the tools they used in the prison break and was planning to be the getaway driver following their escape. Mitchell was a no-show, however, and reportedly had second thoughts at the last minute, according to the Associated Press. Stephen Johnston, Mitchell's new lawyer, could not be reached for comment Monday evening, and told reporters outside the courtroom he was "not inclined to give interviews at this time."

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It's hard to know what role, if any, Mitchell specifically played in the escape, since she and her lawyer aren't talking. But prosecutors have created a portrait of the situation where she agreed to help the men but changed her mind in the 11th hour. "When it was go-time and it was the actual day of the event, I do think she got cold feet and realized, ‘What am I doing?'" District Attorney Andrew Wylie told the AP.

But an official told CNN Mitchell may have helped the men because she feared for her safety or her husband's safety if she didn't participate. Authorities said the men seemed to have had organized a back-up plan in case Mitchell got cold feet, which appears to now be the case. Since they've managed to evade capture so far, it seems clear they considered a plan B.

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Whatever the situation, Mitchell is so far the only person to be jailed in connection with the prison break, and officials said Monday the trail for the two escapees has gone cold. Should they never be found and should she be tried and convicted, Mitchell could end up the only one serving time for this elaborate escape.

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