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Former Weather Underground Member and Father Of San Francisco District Attorney, Paroled After 40 Years
The former domestic terrorist group member had been serving a decades-long sentence in New York for his role in a deadly armored car heist.
A former Weather Underground member whose son was an infant when he was first imprisoned has been granted parole in New York State.
David Gilbert, 77, was convicted in 1983 for his role in a 1981 armored car heist in Nyack, New York (about 30 miles north of Manhattan) and sentenced to 75 years to life. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in August after being accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, commuted Gilbert's sentenced to 40 years to life just before leaving office. That made Gilbert almost immediately eligible for parole, as he was first arrested on the day of the attack.
Gilbert appeared before the Parole Board on Oct. 19, according to the Lower Hudson Journal News, and he petition was granted. He is scheduled to be released on or before Nov. 30 from the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, about 50 miles north of Nyack.
Gilbert's shares a son, Chesa Boudin, with former Weather Underground member and fellow heist participant Kathy Boudin (currently a faculty member at Columbia University, which the group reportedly targeted in a bombing campaign in which Boudin participated in 1970). Kathy Boudin accepted a deal on the heist charges, pled guilty and was sentenced to 25 years to life. She was paroled after her third parole hearing in 2003.
Chesa Boudin, who was 14 months when his parents were arrested in 1981, was raised by fellow Weather Underground members Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. He was elected as district attorney in San Francisco on a progressive platform in 2019.
"My heart is bursting, and it also aches for the families of the three victims," Chesa Boudin said in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle, noting that his own child is due to be born shortly.
In a broader statement to the media, he added that he was "so grateful to the parole board and to everyone who has supported my father during his more than 40 years in prison."
"I’m thinking about the other children affected by this crime and want to make sure that nothing I do or say further upsets the victims' families," he added. "Their loved ones will never be forgotten."
Those families were reportedly unhappy with the decision.
"This murderer gets a second chance and walks out of prison, while my father, Ed O'Grady and Chipper Brown are buried underground," Michael Paige, the son of Brink's guard Peter Paige who was killed in the heist told The Journal News. "It's a disgrace. This is not justice."
On Oct. 20, 1981, Gilbert and Kathy Boudin were driving a getaway U-Haul for a group of left-wing radicals then called the Revolutionary Armed Task Force( RATF) — a group of white, former Weather Underground members — allied with the Black Liberation Army (BLA), according to the Associated Press. Gilbert and Boudin were waiting in nearby parking lot with a U-Haul and another vehicle (driven by another RATF member, Judith Clark) while the BLA members went to the Nanuet Mall and robbed a Brink's truck of $1.6 million (which would be worth $4.7 million today). There, they shot and killed guard Peter Paige, seriously wounded his colleague, Joseph Trombino, and injured the driver James Kelly.
After the parking lot rendezvous, the various members split up into the other cars, driven by RATF members — which was spotted and reported to police — and headed for the New York State Thruway. Before they got there, the van driven by Gilbert and Boudin was pulled over by four officers: Edward O'Grady, Waverly Brown, Brian Lennon and Artie Keenan. (Clark, traveling behind them, has told the New York Times in 2015 that she passed the truck but stopped down the road, not wanting to leave anyone behind.)
The BLA members were in the back of the U-Hail; they emerged as police approached the truck and engaged in a shootout, killing O'Grady and Brown, wounding Keenan and injuring Lennon. Boudin was arrested attempting to flee on foot; Gilbert, fellow RATF member Clark and BLA member Kuwasi Balagoon were arrested later that day after Clark crashed her getaway car in Nyack.
Gilbert, Clark and Balagoon represented themselves at a trial in which they refused to participate, and all were convicted. Balagoon was sentenced to life in prison and died of an AIDS-related illness in prison in 1986. Clark was, like Gilbert, sentenced to 75 years to life for her role but her sentence was commuted to 35 years to life by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016 and she was paroled in 2019.
At an Oct. 20 event memorializing the lives of the three men killed during the heist, Edward O'Grady's wife spoke.
"It has been said, 'Time heals all wounds,'" the Journal Review reported. "I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone."