NEW YORK — The son of Peter Paige — the Brink’s guard who was slain in the infamous 1981 robbery in Rockland County that also left two police officers shot dead — slammed Andrew Cuomo for commuting the sentence of a getaway driver during the final hours of his governorship.
“It makes me sick,” Michael Paige fumed to PIX11 News over the phone Tuesday morning. “I still can’t comprehend why the governor would commute the sentence of a domestic terrorist who was responsible for the murders of two police officers and a Brink’s guard,” Paige said, referring to the clemency granted to David Gilbert, now 76.
“You can’t say, ‘Oh, he was just a driver!” Paige said. “These guys had an intricate plan. They had men with machine guns.”
Before Cuomo officially resigned Monday night, he commuted the 75 year-to-life sentence of Gilbert, a one-time member of the radical Weather Underground who has spent 40 years in prison.
On Oct. 20, 1981, Gilbert was driving one of the getaway U-Haul trucks, when members of the Black Liberation Army jumped out of the back and killed two cops, Officer Waverly Brown and Sergeant Ed O’Grady, with assault weapons at a road stop near the New York State Thruway in Nyack.
The shooters had just escaped from the Nanuet Mall after robbing the Brink’s truck and fatally shooting the guard, Peter Paige, who was 49.
Gilbert’s son is Chesa Boudin, now the District Attorney of San Francisco. The DA’s mother is Kathy Boudin, who was in the U-Haul with Gilbert on that day in 1981. Boudin was paroled in 2003, 18 years ago.
Cuomo’s move means David Gilbert’s sentence was commuted to 40 years, which he has served, and Gilbert will now be eligible to seek release from the parole board.
Chesa Boudin tweeted joyfully about the news from San Francisco, even posting a photo of him as a baby holding onto his father’s back: “Me and my dad in one of our last precious moment(s) of freedom together.”
Boudin reportedly lobbied Andrew Cuomo to commute his father’s sentence before leaving office.
This is not the first time Cuomo has reduced the sentence of a convicted criminal in the Brink’s case.
Right before New Year’s Day 2017, he commuted the sentence of Judith Clark, who was then in her late 60s. Clark was driving a getaway car in Nyack that crashed into a wall when police chased it.
Then-Gov. Cuomo had met Clark in prison and was impressed with her many accomplishments and college degrees. She had celebrity advocates like Kevin Kline, Glenn Close and Steve Buscemi lobbying for her release.
Clark’s commutation caused an outcry from the law enforcement community in early 2017 and her first appearance before the parole board did not result in her release. But she was freed from state prison the following year.
When Cuomo announced he was commuting the sentence of Gilbert, along with several other aging prisoners in jail for robbery and murder, Cuomo praised Gilbert’s “significant contributions to AIDS education and prevention programs,” also noting his prison work as “a student tutor, law library clerk, paralegal assistant, a teacher’s aide, and an aide for various facility programs.”
During more than a decade in Albany as governor, Cuomo revamped the parole board and called on its commissioners to be more forward-thinking and place an emphasis on rehabilitation instead of an inmate’s original crime.
Michael Paige doesn’t think people change.
“The person now is the person who did what they did 30 or 40 years ago,” Paige said, “the person who participated in the plan.”
Paige also took a parting shot at Cuomo, who said he doesn’t want to run for office anymore.
“For him to do this in the last hours of his administration, he’s a coward,” Paige said. “He doesn’t have to account to anybody.”
Paige said he was notified about Gilbert’s “change in status” by the New York State Department of Correction unit that deals with victim notification.
A law enforcement group in Rockland County was planning a response to the clemency later Tuesday afternoon.