Updated Jan 13, 2017
By MARK TOOR
Republican state lawmakers and law-enforcement officials gathered Jan. 9 in Albany to implore the state Parole Board to keep Judith Clark, who has served more than 35 years for a 1981 domestic-terrorism-related robbery that killed two police officers and a Brink’s guard, behind bars.
Governor Cuomo, saying she had turned her life around, commuted her sentence Dec. 30 from 75 years to life to 35 years to life, making her eligible for a parole hearing during the first quarter of this year.
‘Disservice to Every Cop’
But those at the press conference said she still owed a debt to society and urged members of the public to sign an online petition at http://www.noparoleforjudithclark.com calling on parole authorities to deny her release.
“What he has done is a disservice to every police officer in the state,” said State Sen. Martin J. Golden (R-Brooklyn), who retired from the NYPD in 1983 after suffering a serious injury while making a narcotics arrest.
“It’s been noted by some in recent weeks that Judith Clark has helped many people and she has done a lot of generous acts while in prison,” Sen. Fred Akshar, a Republican from Broome County, said. “I think that’s wonderful. I think she should continue to do those things—while within the confines of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.” Mr. Akshar is a former Undersheriff for the county.
‘An Affront to All’
“The release of Judith Clark would be an affront to all law-abiding citizens,” said Sen. Patrick Gallivan, an Erie County Republican. “In committing her crimes, Judith Clark demonstrated a blatant disregard for the rule of law and an incompatibility with the welfare of society that is so far beyond the pale, that any consideration of her release would so deprecate the seriousness of her crime.” He is a former State Trooper and Erie County Sheriff.
James Stewart, a Detective Lieutenant in the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office, compared Ms. Clark to the Devil in the movie “The Exorcist.”
Addressing Mr. Cuomo, he said that the victims’ “spouses, the children, the grandchildren sleep with nightmares again because of your careless commutation of the sentence of the murderous Judith Clark.”
In New York City, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch and Sergeants Benevolent Association President Edward D. Mullins criticized the commutation right after it was announced. Mr. Mullins called it “a complete travesty of the justice system”; Mr. Lynch said that “no amount of rehabilitation by Ms. Clark” could undo the damage she caused.
Drove ‘Other’ Getaway Car
Ms. Clark, now 67, grew up as the child of Communist parents and became radicalized starting in her teens. She was a member of groups including the Weathermen and Students for a Democratic Society, and continued on that path as those organizations faded away.
She was one of eight people involved in the robbery of $1.6 million from an armored Brink’s truck at the Nanuet Mall in Rockland County on Oct. 20, 1981.
One guard, Peter Paige, was killed and another, Joseph Trombino, was seriously wounded. One of the getaway vehicles encountered a police roadblock, and Sgt. Edward O’Grady and Officer Waverly Brown were killed in the ensuing shootout. Ms. Clark was stopped driving a second getaway car.
At her trial, she represented herself, becoming so disruptive she was removed from the courtroom. The sentencing judge said he didn’t believe she could ever be rehabilitated.
But in prison she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, taught classes on prenatal parenting and HIV/
AIDS, trained service dogs to aid both the police and wounded veterans, and served as a college tutor. Mr. Cuomo said he met with her in September and was impressed that she took responsibility for the crime rather than trying to minimize her role.
Ms. Clark’s supporters have sought for years to lighten her sentence. They include retired Bedford Hills Superintendent Elaine Lord, former City Councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge, former Parole Board Chairman Robert Dennison, and Professors at City University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
‘No One More Deserving’
“I have spoken to thousands of inmates and I can unequivocally say that no one is more deserving of parole than Judy Clark,” Mr. Dennison said. “She possesses all the qualities the board looks for: complete acceptance of responsibility for her crime, remorse, regret and total rehabilitation.”
Ms. Clark’s attorney, Steve Zeidman, said, “Judith Clark was given a 75-year sentence because the sentencing judge thought she would never be rehabilitated. Ms. Clark proved him wrong, and Governor Cuomo’s clemency corrects the judge’s inability to imagine a rehabilitated Clark.”