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Why Was David Sweat In Prison? The 'Escape At Dannemora' Followed A Long Crime Spree

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In a tense scene in Episode 3 of Escape at Dannemora, Benicio Del Toro, who plays inmate Richard Matt, asks Paul Dano, who plays David Sweat, how long he's been in prison. "Twelve years," he whispers. The men have just slipped into the guts of the penitentiary through a hole cut into their cell walls. "This is the first time in twelve years nobody knows where you are," Del Toro replies.

Viewers tuning into the true crime may be wondering: why was David Sweat in prison for so long? Escape at Dannemora alludes to him being a "cop killer" and portrays Sweat begging his mother to file a motion for him to be transferred to a different prison because of how unsafe he feels at Clinton Correctional Facility. He reminds her that he has a spotless record and no history of violence as an inmate. But he's ultimately denied a transfer, which leads to the first successful prison break in Clinton Correctional Facility's 170-year history.

On Jul. 4, 2002, David Sweat, his cousin Jeffrey Nabinger Jr, and a third man named Shawn Devaul murdered Broome County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin J. Tarsia, according to the Press & Sun Bulletin. Tarsia had just come upon them in a park, where they were unloading firearms they had looted from one vehicle and loading them into another, Sweat's car.

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The three men tried to hide but as Tarsia shone his flashlight around the scene (it was around 3:30am), he found them. Sweat, who was holding a loaded gun in one hand and an unloaded gun in the other, claims that the police officer reached for his firearm. As he did, Sweat drew his weapon first and shot at him 22 times. One bullet penetrated Tarsia's body armor and he went down, but he was still struggling and reaching for his gun as he remained alive.

Sweat then ran over Tarsia several times with his car, which his defense attorneys claim he did out of panic. Tarsia suffered several broken bones but was still alive. Finally, Nabinger picked up Tarsia's firearm and shot him twice in the face at point blank range, killing him. After a manhunt, the trio was eventually apprehended and confessed to the murder. On Jul. 21, Sweat pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

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In the time since his recapture following the escape from Clinton Correctional Facility, Sweat has been transferred to three different prisons. One of those transfers was the result of yet another escape plot, which Sweat claimed he only hatched to exchange the information with guards in return for special privileges. He's currently serving out the remainder of his sentence at Wende Correctional Facility.

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