The Heist Went Terribly Wrong. 38 Years Later, Freedom

Judith Clark is granted parole
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2019 8:48 AM CDT
Inside This Woman's Contentious Road to Freedom
In this Nov. 24, 1981 file photo, Weather Underground member Judith Clark is escorted into Rockland County Courthouse in New City, NY.   (AP Photo/David Handschuh, File)

"She is a rehabilitated, remorseful woman who poses no threat to society." That's the characterization of Judith Clark by one of her lawyers. The New York parole board agrees—as do the 11 congressmen, 11 state senators, former DA, former judge, and former superintendent of the prison she's been at during her 37 years behind bars who all lobbied for her release. Clark, 69, will walk free by May 15. She was 31 when she served as the getaway driver in the 1981 attempted robbery of a Brink’s armored car in Nanuet, NY. Two police officers and a guard were killed in the incident, which the New York Times describes as "one of the last gasps of the violent left-wing extremism of the 1960s and 1970s." More on her story and the reaction to her being paroled:

  • The Rockland/Westchester Journal News details the crime, in which "a band of self-described revolutionaries"—a joint Weather Underground/Black Liberation Army effort—killed Brink's security guard Peter Paige at the Nanuet Mall and stole $1.6 million. The two cops were killed at a roadblock an hour later. Clark ended up crashing the van she was driving, and feigned surrendering but actually reached for a gun. The plan, per the Times, was to use the money to stage an uprising, with the goal of creating the Republic of New Afrika in the southern US.

  • The news was met with sharply divided opinions. "We're outraged and sickened by this whole decision," said Paige's son. The AP reports Clark had 2,000 support statements to present at her April 3 hearing. The main line of argument seemed to be that she's a model of rehabilitation, and if the corrections system truly believes in rehabilitation, not just retribution, she should be released.
  • That she was even eligible for parole was thanks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who in 2016 commuted her 75-years-to-life sentence to 35 years, enabling her to seek parole. She was denied it by a unanimous vote in 2017, and gained it this time by a 2-1 vote.
  • The official word from the parole board: "You were wrong. Your behavior was criminal. Your callous disregard for the wellbeing of some, in favor of others, is a disgrace. However, this release decision is granted in keeping with applicable factors" among them her age, time served, the apologies she has made, and her achievements behind bars—among them, earning a master's degree, training service dogs, and counseling mothers.
  • The Times reports three men remain behind bars in connection with the crime. Among them: Mutulu Shakur, who prosecutors characterized as the mastermind; he's the stepfather of the late Tupac Shakur.
(More parole stories.)

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