Prosecuting Sweat Is Not Worth The Cost

There can be little doubt David Sweat is guilty of escaping from prison. He and fellow inmate Richard Matt were there in Clinton Correctional Facility on June 5, and then the next day they weren’t. Three weeks later, Mr. Matt was shot to death in the woods, and a state trooper caught Mr. Sweat near the Canadian border. In the meantime, there’s plenty of damning evidence: holes cut in cell walls, basement walls and pipes, and a prison tailor shop supervisor’s confession about helping the pair get away.

We understand that prosecutors feel they’d be neglecting their job if they didn’t prosecute Mr. Sweat for charges of escape and prison contraband (hacksaw blades), but this is a rare case in which their sense of duty should take a back seat to the taxpayers’ dollars and cents.

There’s no real purpose of justice this prosecution can serve: no added punishment, no deterrence of other people from trying the same thing. Mr. Sweat is already serving a life sentence without chance of parole for murdering a sheriff’s deputy in 2002. Now he is in solitary confinement in Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus. His “field trips” for court appearances in Plattsburgh are actually respites from his new world’s crushing monotony.

Because Mr. Sweat did not enter a plea, his plea status remains “not guilty.” He has no incentive to get this over with quickly – he has nothing but time – and the district attorney has nothing to bargain with. The case could drag on for a while.

In the grand scheme of things, the money spent on this prosecution is no big deal, especially considering that the state’s taxpayers already spent $1 million a day in staff overtime alone during a three-week manhunt. Therefore, prosecuting Mr. Sweat is not scandalous – just fairly pointless.

Our readers seem to agree. In an unscientific poll on our website from Aug. 24 to 31, we asked, “Is prosecuting David Sweat for escaping from prison worth the taxpayers’ expense since he’s already serving a life sentence without parole?” Of 343 votes, 83 percent were “no.”

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie would do well to let this case go.