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State Senate committee to hold hearings on Dannemora prison escape

This combination of file photos released by the

This combination of file photos released by the New York State Police shows David Sweat, left, and Richard Matt. Matt, who staged a brazen escape from an upstate maximum-security prison with Sweat and had been hunted for three weeks was shot and killed June 26, 2015. Sweat was shot and captured on June 28. Credit: New York State Police via AP, File

ALBANY - The Senate Crime and Corrections Committee chairman said Tuesday that the chamber will conduct hearings on the Dannemora prison break, separate from the Cuomo administration's internal investigation.

"I think we have an obligation to look at it in our oversight capacity," said Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma), a former trooper and Erie County sheriff. He added he "would not wait" until a review by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's inspector general is completed.

Cuomo has asked his Office of Inspector General to investigate the escape. (Separately, the FBI reportedly is investigating drug trafficking at Dannemora.)

But some lawmakers are saying it shouldn't be left up to the Cuomo administration to investigate itself, said Assemb. James Tedisco (R-Scotia).

"There's got to be an investigation and it's got to be an independent investigation out of the governor's purview because there may be some culpability on the part of the administration," Tedisco told CNN.

Gallivan said he "doesn't know that the I.G. can't do a good job" but legislators might have their own questions.

Besides wanting to sort through the basics of how the escape happened, Gallivan said he wants to look at security procedures and bed check procedures -- prisoners David Sweat and Richard Matt left stuffed dummies in their bunks while they escaped through a sewer pipe on June 6. The senator also noted that two Dannemora towers within sight of the manhole from which the two prisoners emerged onto the street reportedly were no longer manned.

"Could it have made a difference? Maybe, maybe not," Gallivan said. "But I think we have to take a look at staffing -- are monetary concerns driving security? Those are all questions to ask."

The senator, pointing to evidence that Sweat and Matt -- both convicted murderers serving lengthy sentences -- methodically gathered tools and access to a catwalk over a long period.

"The fact that this could have happened over an extended time defies common sense," Gallivan said.

Cuomo officials didn't immediately comment.

The Assembly chairman of that chamber's Corrections Committee said he was content to await the inspector general's report before deciding to hold hearings.

"Let's see what they come out with," said Assemb. Daniel O'Donnell (D-Manhattan).

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