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Court Rejects David Sweat Appeal

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Appeals Court Decision Appeals Court Decision

An appellate division of the state Supreme Court rejected David Sweat's appeal of a 2016 judgment of his prison breakout from the Clinton Correctional Facility.

In June 2015, Sweat was serving a life sentence for the 2002 murder of Broome County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Tarsia when he and Richard Matt escaped the maximum security prison, leading police on a 22-day manhunt. 

Sweat pleaded guilty to two counts of escape and one count of promoting prison contraband.

Sweat's lawyer moved to withdraw his plea, arguing that at the time he pleaded guilty he wasn't aware of his constitutional rights, he did not have sufficient time to speak with counsel and had a defense to the escape charges. 

Clinton County Court denied the motion without a hearing and sentenced Sweat to 7 to 14 years in prison. 

Sweat appealed. 

In its January 11 decision, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division Third Judicial Department rejected Sweat's claims that the county court "abused its discretion" when it denied the motion without a hearing. 

"The nature and extent of the fact-finding procedures necessary to decide a motion to withdraw a guilty plea rest within the discretion of the trial court, and only in the rare instance will a defendant be entitled to an evidentiary hearing."

They also determined Sweat's entered a "knowing, voluntary and intelligent" plea.

Sweat's lawyer claimed the sentence was harsh and excessive. But the four-judge-panel noted the sentence would run consecutively with his current sentence of life without parole and pointed to the severity of the crime and the "trauma and fear instilled in the community" during the three-week manhunt. 

"Under these circumstances, we find no abuse of discretion or extraordinary circumstances warranting a reduction of the sentence."