The prison worker accused of helping two convicted murderers escape an upstate New York prison earlier this year sobbed in court as she was sentenced to up to seven years behind bars.
Former prison seamstress Joyce Mitchell, 51, was sentenced by Clinton County Court Judge Kevin Ryan on Monday.
"You did terrible things," Ryan said, adding that people in areas affected by the escape and subsequent manhunt were "terrorized."
"Many residents did not sleep many nights, afraid that these two extremely violent individuals might be outside their homes," Ryan said. "Then we have the law enforcement officers who came here not only from New York State but from all over the country... never knowing that if the next step they took in deeply wooded areas may be there last."
Mitchell pleaded for leniency in a tearful address to the court, saying she only did what she did because she feared inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt and for the safety of her family.
"If I could take it all back, I would," she said, stopping often to wipe her eyes and choke back sobs. "I was fearful of Mr. Matt threatening to kill my husband and wanting to know where my son and my mother lives... I love them more than life itself. I'm not a bad person. I clearly made a horrible mistake."
But Ryan was not swayed by her excuses, saying: "Ms. Mitchell, I just don’t find that explanation credible... At any time you could have stopped the escape from happening."
Before handing down Mitchell's sentence, Ryan noted that the court had received many letters asking that the sentence laid out in her guilty plea be thrown out, but he explained that under the law, he could not impose anything more than the maximum seven years in prison.
Mitchell was sentenced to 2-1/3 to seven years in prison for promoting prison contraband and one year to be served concurrently for facilitating criminal activity. She must also pay $6,000 in fines.
Prosecutors are also seeking restitution of almost $120,000 to cover the cost of repairing the cell walls that Matt and Sweat cut through to escape.
Mitchell's attorney, Stephen Johnston, objected to the sum, suggesting that Matt and Sweat may have had additional assistance in breaking out of the prison.
"I just do not understand how these men could have escaped without the use of power tools... I believe there was other assistance somehow provided to these men," Johnston said.
A restitution hearing was set for November 6.
Mitchell pleaded guilty in a deal that allowed her to avoid charges for an alleged plot to kill her husband, Lyle Mitchell, as well as to avoid charges for any alleged sexual contact she had with the inmates. Lyle Mitchell was in the audience Monday as his wife was sentenced.
Matt and Sweat broke out of the Clinton County Correctional Facility on June 6 by cutting through walls and pipes with tools supplied by Mitchell. Law enforcement hunted the men for three weeks, combing hundreds of miles for the two men.
Matt was shot dead 20 days after making the escape, and Sweat was shot and captured two days after that.
Watch Below: Ex-Inmate: Flirty Joyce Mitchell Brought Escaped Prisoner BBQ Ribs