At New York parole hearing, David Gilbert described radical journey

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David Gilbert

FILE – In this Nov. 23, 1981, file photo, law officials escort a handcuffed David Gilbert, second from left, from Rockland County Court in New City, N.Y. Former Weather Underground radical David Gilbert has been granted parole after decades in prison for his role in a fatal 1981 Brink’s robbery north of New York City, a corrections department spokesperson said Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/David Handschuh, File)

NEW YORK — Former Weather Underground radical David Gilbert described his path from nonviolent 1960s activist to would-be revolutionary during a 4 1/2-hour hearing before the New York state parole board panel that approved his parole in October.

Gilbert was granted parole 40 years after he served as a getaway driver in the botched Brink’s robbery that left three men dead. He became eligible for parole when his sentence was commuted by former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo just before he left office in August.

The 171-page transcript of the parole hearing was released to The Associated Press on Thursday in response to a freedom of information request.

Gilbert and other former members of the Weather Underground, a militant group that grew out of the anti-Vietnam War movement, had joined with members of the Black Liberation Army in the Oct. 20, 1981, robbery. They stole $1.6 million in cash from an armored car outside the Nanuet Mall near the Hudson River community of Nyack.

Brink’s guard Peter Paige and two Nyack police officers, Sgt. Edward O’Grady and Officer Waverly Brown, were killed in the holdup and ensuing shootout at a nearby roadblock.

Though unarmed, Gilbert was charged with robbery and murder, since people were killed during the crime. Also charged was Chesa Boudin’s mother, Kathy Boudin. The boy was 14 months old when his parents were imprisoned.

In a sometimes raucous trial, Gilbert and two other defendants cast themselves as freedom fighters and deemed the proceedings illegitimate. At one court session, Gilbert and defendant Judith Clark raised their fists and shouted “Free the land!”

Kathy Boudin avoided a harsher sentence by pleading guilty and was paroled in 2003. Clark was granted parole in 2019, three years after Cuomo commuted her sentence. She had been denied parole after her first hearing two years earlier.

Gilbert was not eligible for parole until 2056 before Cuomo commuted his sentence. The former governor said Gilbert made significant contributions to AIDS education and prevention programs, and worked as a tutor, law library clerk, paralegal assistant, teacher’s aide and aide in various prison programs.

Chesa Boudin was raised by his parents’ Weather Underground compatriots, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

He ran a progressive campaign for San Francisco district attorney in 2019 in which he said visiting his parents in prison showed him the criminal justice system was broken.

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