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April 17, 2019

Getaway Driver in Deadly 1981 Brinks Heist Is Granted Parole

By Jimmy Vielkind

Judith Clark, the getaway driver in a 1981 armored car robbery in suburban New York that left two police officers and a security guard dead, has been granted parole after spending nearly four decades in prison, state officials said Wednesday.

As a member of the radical group Weather Underground, Ms. Clark drove the getaway vehicle for the robbery in Rockland County, in which $1.6 million in cash was stolen. Three victims, Nyack police Sgt. Edward O’Grady and Officer Waverly “Chipper” Brown and Brinks guard Peter Paige, were fatally shot.

Although Ms. Clark, now 69 years old, wasn’t at the immediate scene of the shootings, she was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery and sentenced to 75 years to life in prison for her role in the heist.

Over time she became a model inmate who received various degrees and trained service dogs. Some Democratic politicians and legal groups began lobbying for her release, saying she was sentenced to a longer prison term than others involved in the crime. Gov. Andrew Cuomo commuted her sentence in 2016. She would otherwise not have been eligible for parole until 2056.

Dozens of current and former elected officials signed a letter in support of Ms. Clark ahead of an April 3 hearing. In a 2-1 decision released Wednesday, the parole board members said Ms. Clark’s “callous disregard for the wellbeing of some, in favor of others, is a disgrace.”

But given Ms. Clark’s actions in prison and expressions of remorse, the board concluded she was “likely to remain at liberty without once again violating the law” and said her release was “compatible with the welfare of the overall community.”

Her attorneys said in a statement that they were grateful. Ms. Clark’s daughter, Harriet Clark, thanked everyone who helped her family over the nearly 38 years she was incarcerated.

“My great hope is that the Parole Board continues to honor the work people do to transform their lives while in prison and lets more families’ loved ones come home,” the daughter said in a statement.

Law-enforcement groups have lobbied against Ms. Clark’s release, saying the seriousness of the crime outweighed other considerations.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day, a Republican and former New York Police Department commander, said the ruling was a “perversion of justice” and a “cruel and unjust slap in the face” to the victims’ families.

“The parole board and the elected officials responsible for allowing this domestic terrorist to walk free should be ashamed,” Mr. Day said in a statement.

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo didn’t immediately return a request for comment. The Democratic governor met with Ms. Clark in prison, and has previously questioned whether it was fair to keep her incarcerated given her accessory role in the crime and her rehabilitation behind bars.