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April 16, 2019

Clark Granted Parole; PBA Assails Decision

Convicted of Murder in ’81 Brinks Heist


Judith Clark, the former revolutionary convicted of murder for her role in a militant group’s 1981 robbery of a Brink’s truck in Rockland County during which a guard, Peter Paige, and, an hour later, two Nyack policemen, Officer Waverly Brown and Sgt. Edward O'Grady, were killed, has been granted parole. She is expected to be freed from the Bedford Hills Correction Facility within a month.

While dozens of elected and other officials said Ms. Clark, 69, had long ago renounced violence and accepted responsibility for her role in the murders, law-enforcement groups remained adamant that she remain in prison. They greeted the split decision to release her—two state Board of Parole Commissioners were in favor and one dissented—with anger.

‘Cruel and Unjust’

“Judith Clark is a murderer and a terrorist. Because of her actions, three families have been permanently deprived of husbands, father and sons. Those families cannot escape their loss, but Judith Clark will be allowed to escape accountability for her crimes. That is not justice,” he said in a statement. “The New York State Parole Board has proven once again that it does not value the rule of law or the sacrifices of the police officers who uphold those laws. The families of murdered police officers and New Yorkers across the state are crying out for sane and responsible parole decisions, but it is clear that the Parole Board is not listening.”

The Rockland County Executive, Ed Day, a former NYPD cop who has lived in Rockland County since 1983, harshly criticized the decision to parole Ms. Clark.

“Today’s ruling by the parole board is a cruel and unjust slap in the face to the families of Sergeant Edward O'Grady, Officer Waverly "Chipper" Brown and Brinks guard Peter Paige,” he said in a statement. “This perversion of justice is a sad continuation of the deadly assault on police officers happening across our nation and signals to the criminal element that it is open season on cops. The parole board and the elected officials responsible for allowing this domestic terrorist to walk free should be ashamed.”

But Ronnie Eldridge, a former City Council Member who had long pushed for Ms. Clark’s release, said the parole board’s determination was appropriate and just.

“She was a model of what’s it’s all about,” she said of Ms. Clark’s rehabilitation. “I think it’s a good sign. More people who have served a long time deserve the chance.”

She said the likelihood of Ms. Clark returning to her radical, even violent, tendencies were remote. “All the facts show that the recidivism rate for people over 60 is very low,” Ms. Eldridge said.

Her lawyer,  Steven Zeidman, said she was “overwhelmed” and grateful, particularly for her supporters, but also for the parole board’s trust and Governor Cuomo, who commuted her sentence in December 2016, making her eligible for parole. 

He said Ms. Clark did have an offer of employment with an organization providing for woman recently released from prison. She also would like to continue the work she was doing with the Puppies Behind Bars program, which teaches inmates to train dogs for wounded war veterans and first-responders.

Her task once released from prison, he said, is essentially to continue working on behalf of others.  

“Parole is supposed to be an adjudication of who you are now,” Mr. Zeidman said Wednesday evening. “Judy is a thoughtful, generous and compassionate person. She wears the harm she caused on her sleeve. She is someone bent on repair.”


In their statement accompanying the decision to parole her, Commissioners Tana Agostini and Ellen Alexander said Ms. Clark’s “callous disregard for the wellbeing of some, in favor of others” was a “disgrace.”

But they also cited her “documented efforts to apologize to [her] victims and the community,” and her good works in prison, including instructing fellow inmates on AIDS awareness and prenatal care, and training puppies as service dogs for both law-enforcement personnel and disabled veterans, as well as her efforts to kick-start a college program to serve inmates and her own education.

“After an extensive interview, review of the record and deliberation, this panel finds that there is ample evidence of rehabilitation, remorse and transformation and we conclude that you are likely to remain at liberty without once again violating the law and that your release is compatible with the welfare of the overall community,” the two Commissioners wrote.

While a third Commissioner, W. William Smith, also cited Ms. Clark’s achievements behind bars, he said her release “would deprecate the seriousness of the offenses and undermine respect for the law.”   

He also cited her plans to escape prison, which surfaced in 1985. “In time, the thousands of written comments in opposition and in favor of your release will be put in storage. Media coverage will lessen,” he wrote. “What will not diminish is the loss felt by the loved ones of [those killed during the robbery attempt.] The sounds of their weeping will remain.”     

Sentenced to Life

Ms. Clark, who will turn 70 in November, was 38 years into a prison term that at her 1983 sentencing was likely to turn into a life stint.

Although she did not fire any shots during the robbery, her defiance at her 1983 trial—Ms. Clark declined to be represented by counsel and refused to abide by courtroom protocols—led the judge to declare her incapable of rehabilitation and sentenced her to a minimum of 75 years, among the longest sentences for the seven defendants.  

But Governor Cuomo, citing her good works in prison and her “exceptional strides in self-development," commuted her sentence. 

She was denied parole following her first hearing before the state Parole Board two years ago, with the three-person panel concluding that she was “still a symbol of violent and terroristic crime.”

Ms. Clark is believed to be the second-longest serving female inmate in the state.


Several others were implicated, directly or indirectly, in the 1981 heist and murders, the most notorious being Kathy Boudin, who was convicted of the murders of Sgt. O'Grady and Officer Brown. She was paroled in 2003, after serving 22 years in prison. 

Samuel Brown, formerly known as Solomon Bouines, was convicted of murder and robbery and will likely die in prison, as will David Gilbert, who was convicted of three counts of murder and sentenced to life. He is imprisoned at Wende Correctional Facility.

Kuwasi Balagoon, born Donald Weems, was convicted of two counts of murder and one of attempted murder and sentenced to life. He died in prison in 1986.

Sekou Odinga, also known as Nathaniel Burns, who was involved in a shootout in Queens with police a few days after the heist, was convicted of attempted murder and released in 2014. Samuel Smith was killed by police in that shootout.

Marilyn Buck, who eluded law enforcement for nearly four years, was convicted of murder and other charges and sentenced to 50 years. She was released in 2010 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer but died shortly afterward. The Police Benevolent Association’s president, Patrick J. Lynch, said the Parole Board’s majority was critically misguided.