By Paige Laver
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – When outgoing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently commuted the prison sentence of David Gilbert – who was involved in the robbery of a Brinks armored car in 1981 that killed two law enforcement officers and one guard – the father of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin became eligible for release in October after being sentenced to 75 years to life.
Gilbert was a member of the Weather Underground, a radical left wing militant organization. He has served nearly 40 years of his 75 year sentence for his role in the crime, where $1.6 million were stolen from the armored car that was outside the Nanuet Mall near Nyack, New York.
The heist was organized by the Black Liberation Army and the May 19th Communist Organization, a branch of the Weather Underground group.
Gilbert is the second member of the Weather Underground Organization that has sought relief from Cuomo. In 2016, Judith Clark was released for her “exceptional strides in self-development” as an inmate where she was granted a parole hearing and eventually was released.
Cuomo praised Gilbert for his work in AIDS education and prevention while serving in prison, and as a teacher and a library clerk. Cuomo wrote on Twitter “He has served 40 years of a 75- year sentence, related to an incident in which he was the driver, not the murderer.”
Gilbert’s upcoming parole hearing follows a campaign for his release that includes his son, Chesa Boudin, who was elected District Attorney of San Francisco in 2019, who was an infant when his mother Kathy Boudin and his father was convicted of the 1981 crime.
Although Gilbert is supported by Cuomo and other politicians, there are people who are opposed of his release, especially among families of the three men who were killed and those who may see Boudin’s policies as too left-wing.
A petition with more than 3,000 signatures has been signed and submitted to the parole board with chair Gina Standford, Governor Kathy Hochul, and Assemblyman Michael Lawler.
Michael Lawler cited the parole of the others who committed the crimes, specifically telling the governor and parole board chair about the recent release of Robert McCain for the 1980 murder of 16 year old Paula Bohevesky in Pearl River.
McCain got an early release even though transcripts have shown that he denied committing the crime and has put blame on an unknown serial killer. The parole board letter showed that McCain has shown remorse. Lawler wrote to chair Standford, “Do not make the same mistake with cop- killer David Gilbert.”
Gilbert has his supporters who have cited his positive work as an inmate against racism and justice. Gilbert was a peace activist during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.
Those who are in support of Gilbert being released argue that he was driving a getaway vehicle and was not armed, and that he has transformed himself while being in prison and should be released while Boudin still has a chance to reconnect with him.
Officials of the Interfaith Fellowship of Reconciliation, a worldwide peace group wrote “For justice to be made real, we must shift our society’s responses to violence from the current approaches that are proven not to work. Healing requires accountability, repair, and restoration…we urge our brother and sisters New Yorkers to embrace the spirit of forgiveness and the recognition of Gilbert’s rehabilitation and remorse….to move beyond hatred and the search for revenge.”
For the families and friends of the men who were killed, justice is keeping Gilbert locked behind bars. Rockland Sheriff Louis Falco stated “The three men killed left nine children who had to grow up without their fathers to share life’s milestones and their many achievements.”
The families have witnessed and opposed other Brinks convicts from being released.
Kathy Boudin was a getaway driver and a leader of Weather Underground but was paroled in 2003, after 23 years of prison, following Clark who was released in 2019.
Chesa Boudin has advocated for the release of his father alongside Cuomo, knowing his father has worked towards advocating for communities such as fighting for racial justice and AIDS foundation, while also teaching other incarcerated individuals while being behind bars.