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Woman gets 21 months in dog-crate escape

A prison volunteer who admitted helping a convicted murderer escape in a dog crate was sentenced to 21 months behind bars.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A prison volunteer who admitted helping a convicted murderer escape in a dog crate was sentenced to 21 months behind bars.

Under a plea agreement reached last month, Toby Young, who ran a dog training program using inmates at Lansing Correctional Facility, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting aggravated escape and introducing contraband — a cellular phone — into the prison.

She also agreed to pay some $7,500 in restitution to the Department of Corrections for overtime and travel expenses.

During Wednesday's brief sentencing hearing, District Judge Frederick Stewart asked her, "Is there anything you want to say?"

She softly replied, "No."

Coming into the Leavenworth County Courthouse with family and friends, Young declined to talk to reporters. As she was led away, she looked at her family and friends and said, "Bring my bag down."

After the hearing, defense attorney Jim Yoakum told reporters, "As for remorse, I know for a fact she's very sorry for what she did."

‘She’s owning up to what she did’
Her attorney said Young pleaded guilty because she wanted to put the highly publicized case behind her and that she felt it was a fair offer.

"She's not happy about going to prison, but she's going to make the best of the situation," Yoakum said. "She's owning up to what she did and she's going to jail."

He said that since her arrest, Young had to deal with the death of her father and her husband filing for divorce.

In the agreement, Young admitted smuggling murderer John Manard, 27, out of prison on Feb. 12 in a dog crate in the back of van she used as part of the Safe Harbor Prison Dog Program she ran at the penitentiary since 2004.

Manard, serving life for a 1996 Johnson County murder during a carjacking, was among the inmates she used as a dog trainer. Prison officials have continued the program.

The two were at large for two weeks before being captured in Tennessee. Manard is back in Lansing, where he spends all but one hour a day in his cell. Officials say he could have 10 years added to his sentence.

‘An irrational act’
Yoakum said his client told authorities what she did was "an irrational act."

"I don't think she can explain it," he said.

Under the agreement, she could have been sentenced to up to 41 months in prison, but prosecutors and Yoakum settled on 21 months.

Because Young receives credit for time already served, Yoakum said she could be released within about a year. She had been free on $20,000 bond since pleading guilty.

Prosecutor Frank Kohl told reporters he was satisfied with the deal because "we wanted to make sure she went to prison and did time."

He said Young faced separate trials on each charge and if found guilty could have received up to 75 months in prison.

"She knew it was going to happen and saw the crate loaded into the van and away they went," Kohl said. "She said as soon as she got outside the prison, she wanted to turn back and he told her it was too late — they won't understand."

Meanwhile, Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Miskell said the agency was satisfied with the outcome.

Exploiting trust
Prison officials said she took advantage of the trust she gained while running the program to drive Manard out of the prison. A guard at the gate who recognized Young didn't conduct a thorough search of the van before letting it leave the prison. That guard was fired but later was allowed to resign.

Kohl said Young admitted smuggling a cell phone into the prison on Jan. 31. Visitors aren't allowed to carry cell phones beyond the reception area.

"She just put it in her pocket and just walked in," Kohl said.

Investigators believe Manard used the smuggled phone to call the resort in rural Alpine, Tenn., where the pair stayed in a cabin. He also arranged for the pickup truck in which they were captured. The Safe Harbor van was found two days after the escape in a storage locker 10 miles from the prison.

The two were arrested Feb. 24 about 60 miles from where they were staying as they tried to outrun police on Interstate 75 between Chattanooga and Knoxville.

Authorities said two pistols Young took from her home and a security box with nearly $25,000 in cash were in the cabin. They also said Young had purchased hair dye and a razor before the escape.