Escaped Convict Richard Matt Has a History of Jail Breaks

Richard Matt, the City of Tonawanda native who broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in New York State’s North Country, has a history of breaking out of jail, WGRZ reports.

WGRZ spoke with Barry Covert, a noted Buffalo, New York, criminal defense attorney, about Mr. Matt. The interview is available at WGRZ’s website.

In this most recent escape, Mr. Matt and another inmate, David Sweat, used power tools to break out of their adjoining cells and then wound their way through the bowels of the massive 19th century prison. Once outside the prison walls, they came out a manhole.

Past prison breaks, planned and realized

An Erie County Sherriff’s Office spokesperson told WGRZ’s 2 on Your Side that Mr. Matt broke out of a county correctional facility in the mid-1980s and was captured four days later. The spokesperson said no information was available on why Mr. Matt was in jail then.

Twenty years later, Mr. Matt was on trial and eventually convicted for the murder of William Rickerson, who owned a North Tonawanda food warehouse where the defendant had been employed. After losing his job at the warehouse, prosecutors said Mr. Matt robbed, kidnapped, and dismembered Mr. Rickerson.

A retired law enforcement official told WGRZ that, during the trial, authorities learned Mr. Matt planned to break out of the Niagara County jail where he was being held. Due to the escape plan, there was exceptionally tight security around the defendant every time he was in court, including snipers on rooftops.

Mr. Matt was sentenced to 25 years to life for that crime. He was also serving time for killing a man in a bar in Mexico.

People known by the escapees should be on alert

Mr. Covert told 2 on Your Side that when violent criminals are on the loose, people who know the convicts are usually contacted.

“At a minimum, you would expect the victim’s family has been contacted,” Mr. Covert said. “You would expect that witnesses who testified against him have been contacted. Law enforcement will make the added effort in these cases to make sure that they contact those individuals to make certain they are aware of what’s occurring here.”

Now that Mr. Matt and Mr. Sweat are at large, police agencies across the state are on high alert. North Tonawanda Police say all officers have been briefed on the convicts’ fugitive status.

About Barry Covert

A member of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Group, Mr. Covert focuses his practice on New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; constitutional law, including First Amendment, Second Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct, scientific fraud, research misconduct, research fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and defense of professional licensing, including for attorneys, doctors, and nurses.