'I Was Doing Him a Favor': 5 Things to Know About Gene Palmer, the Second Prison Worker Accused of Helping Convicts Escape
Richard Matt and David Sweat remain at large since escaping on June 6
On Wednesday, a second Clinton Correctional facility worker was arrested for helping two convicted murderers escape prison earlier this month.
Gene Palmer, 57, admitted to passing prisoners Richard Matt and David Sweat a package of frozen hamburger meat, but he denied having any knowledge that there were hacksaw blades hidden in the beef. He also confessed to providing Matt with “benefits” in exchange for information about the “illegal acts that inmates were committing within the facility,” according to charging documents obtained by PEOPLE. Palmer has yet to enter a plea.
District Attorney Andrew Wylie said Thursday that he believed Palmer’s claims that he may have been “misled” into helping the two convicts, adding that though his behavior – trading prison contraband for intel – is commonplace in prisons, it’s “improper.”
“It violates the rules and procedures of the Department of Corrections. It violates the penal law of official misconduct,” he said, according to North County Public Radio. For that reason, Palmer faces the same amount of time in prison as Joyce Mitchell, who was previously arrested for aiding the two escapees and who allegedly had an affair with one or both of them.
So who is Gene Palmer and what was his relationship with the violent criminals? Here are five things to know about the corrections officer:
1. He worked at the prison for 27 years.
In an interview with North County Public Radio in 2000, Palmer described Clinton as having a “kindergarten kind of atmosphere,” referring to the inmates repeatedly as children and damaged “puppies.”
However, he also spoke about the dark side of working at a prison. “With the money that they pay you, you’ll go bald, you’ll have high blood pressure, you’ll become an alcoholic,” he said, adding that workers “become hard on issues.” “You’ll divorce, and then you’ll kill yourself,” he said.
2. He was given paintings by both Matt and Sweat.
According to charging documents obtained by PEOPLE, Matt and Sweat painted a number of pictures for Palmer, who buried the paintings and then burned them after the two inmates made their escape. In a statement in those documents, Palmer admitted to providing the two with painting supplies he purchased at the Michael’s in Plattsburgh. He then helped Matt hide those supplies during a cell inspection. “I took the paint tubes from him and hid them on top of the air vent,” he said.
3. He allowed Sweat to change the electrical wiring to the inmates’ cells.
When asked why he allowed Sweat out of his cell to change the electrical wiring in the cell boxes, he said he did it because Matt had asked him to and “I was doing him a favor,” he said. The alterations allowed the inmates “to enhance their ability to cook in the cells.”
4. He’s in a band called Just Us.
Palmer is the lead guitarist in the band, who shared the photo above on their Facebook page June 14, just a week and a half before he was arrested for his part in the convicts’ escape. “Our lead player Gene Palmer in 1978 with a friend,” the photo is captioned, “same guitar…hes been banging on that les paul custom black beauty for a long time!”
Palmer, who’s been in the band for 10 years, also sings and plays rhythm guitar and keyboard.
5. He helped Matt mail a painting to a woman in Florida.
The painting was of TV character Tony Soprano, a source familiar with the investigation told The New York Times, and the woman sold it on eBay for $2,000.
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Matt and Sweat remain at large since escaping on June 6.
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