Prison Escapee Traded Paintings of Angelina Jolie and Julia Roberts With Corrupt Guard for Escape Tools
The convicted killer paints elaborate portraits of celebrities.
In a remarkable turn of events in the sensational prison break of two convicted killers from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY, a prison guard has admitted to having provided tools and favors to escapee Richard W. Matt in exchange for art.
Matt isn’t the only inmate with artist skills, notorious UK prisoner Charles Bronson got a solo show at a London gallery last March.
According to court documents, correction guard Gene Palmer smuggled tools such as a screwdriver and pliers into the prison, which he swapped for original drawings and paintings by Matt.
Matt and his accomplice, David Sweat, allegedly used the tools to prepare their daring escape from the maximum security prison.
Three weeks ago, Matt and Sweat, dug a hole through their cell walls and escaped via a prison air vent and out of a manhole.
Palmer now faces felony charges for promoting prison contraband, and two counts of tampering with physical evidence, also felonies. He also faces a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct.
Palmer was so infatuated with the paintings that he provided the prisoner with art supplies such as brushes and acrylic paints. During inspections Palmer would lead Matt to the catwalk behind his cell to stash the contraband equipment “on top of the air vent.”
The New York Times reported that the guard even helped send one of the paintings to a woman in Florida who sold the artwork on eBay for $2,000.
A friend with whom Matt served time released images of the convict’s work. His paintings and sketches consist of portraits of celebrities and politicians including Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, and President Obama.
Painting and drawing is a popular activity for many prisoners across the US. Some states even run painting classes for inmates, although the classes are not offered at New York state prisons.
According to an unnamed former state official cited by the NYT, prisoners routinely give artworks to prison employees. “Pictures are often done by inmates and offered up to staff and I’ve even seen them given to wardens,” the official said, adding that “it happens all the time.”
Palmer supervised Matt for a period of seven years. Following the jailbreak reported on June 6, Palmer destroyed several artworks in a fire pit at his home. Other works were buried in the nearby woods, but some of them have been recovered by investigators.
In a similar case in 2003, Timothy A. Vail, a talented painter and inmate who escaped from Elmira Correctional Facility in Elmira, NY, found the favor of prison guards and staff by painting murals and Christmas decorations.
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