A female employee from the New York maximum security prison, where two prisoners escaped last week, pleaded not guilty to accusations that she helped the two men. The 51-year-old industrial training supervisor, Joyce Mitchell, was taken into custody last week and accused of smuggling items into the prison -- items which the fugitive inmates used to escape.

The New York State Police said that formal charges were brought against the woman regarding the promotion of prison contraband and criminal facilitation. If she is convicted of the crimes, she could spend seven years in prison.

Mitchell entered her not guilty plea last Friday. Her next court hearing was then scheduled for the following Monday. Major Charles Guess of the New York State Police said that the case is a vital part of the ongoing search for the fugitives.

Crawled Through a Steam Pipe

A little more than a week ago, the men, whom the woman allegedly helped, disappeared from the maximum security facility through holes they cut in steel walls, and then they scrambled through a steam pipe. Eventually, they emerged into the free world through a manhole in a nearby neighborhood.

As Mitchell pleaded not guilty on Friday, over 800 police officers, tracker dogs and airborne police units were engaged in the hunt for the men. Most of the searching was done within a several mile radius of the prison. Authorities checked forested areas nearby and went door-to-door, checking area homes for signs of intrusion.

At this time, police have no idea if the men are still in the area or if they are still together.

Insufficient Evidence to Prove a Romantic Relationship

The Clinton County district attorney said that Mitchell was previously investigated for allegedly having an intimate relationship with one of the men; however, not enough evidence was uncovered to support such charges. As for the charges that appear to have relevance, though, the jury is still out.

In spite of the charges being brought against her, this woman will remain innocent until -- and only if -- she is proved to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court. Until that moment occurs, she will have every opportunity to assert her own version of the facts in defense against the charges during her criminal court proceedings.