Radical Convicted in Deadly 1981 Brink's Robbery Paroled After Cuomo Shortened Sentence

A former radical from the Weather Underground organization was granted parole after spending 40 years in jail for his role in a 1981 robbery in which two cops and a guard were killed, the Associated Press reported.

David Gilbert was originally sentenced to 75 years to life but became eligible for parole when former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shortened his sentence in August.

Gilbert, now 76, has been imprisoned since the deadly Brink's robbery but will be able to leave the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in the Hudson Valley in November. He appeared before the state parole board on October 19 and was subsequently granted approval, according to Thomas Mailey, a spokesperson for the New York state corrections department.

As other defendants in the case have been released from prison, supporters called for Gilbert's freedom, too, including his son, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, AP reported.

"I am so grateful to the parole board and to everyone who has supported my father during his more than 40 years in prison," Boudin said in an email. "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."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

David Gilbert Granted Parole
Former Weather Underground radical David Gilbert has been granted parole after decades in prison for his role in a fatal 1981 Brink’s robbery north of New York City, a corrections department spokesperson said on October 26, 2021. Above, law officials escort a handcuffed Gilbert (second from left) from Rockland County Court in New City City on November 23, 1981. David Handschuh/AP Photo

But even the prospect of Gilbert's release had angered some local officials in the Hudson Valley and family members who said his release would insult the memory of the slain men.

In a statement, Rockland County Executive Ed Day called the decision a "cruel and unjust slap in the face to the families" of those killed.

"Former Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Parole Board should be ashamed for allowing this domestic terrorist to walk free on our streets," Day said. "There's no reason that David Gilbert should not have to face the full consequences of his heinous crimes, no matter how much time has passed."

Gilbert and other former members of the Weather Underground, a militant group that grew out of the anti-Vietnam War movement, had joined with members of the Black Liberation Army in the October 20, 1981, robbery. They stole $1.6 million in cash from an armored car outside the Nanuet Mall near the Hudson River community of Nyack.

Brink's guard Peter Paige and two Nyack police officers, Sgt. Edward O'Grady and Officer Waverly Brown, were killed in the holdup and ensuing shootout at a nearby roadblock.

Though unarmed, Gilbert was charged with robbery and murder, since people were killed during the crime. Also charged was Chesa Boudin's mother, Kathy Boudin. The boy was 14 months old when his parents were imprisoned.

In a sometimes raucous trial, Gilbert and two other defendants cast themselves as freedom fighters and deemed the proceedings illegitimate. At one court session, Gilbert and defendant Judith Clark raised their fists and shouted "Free the land!"

Kathy Boudin avoided a harsher sentence by pleading guilty and was paroled in 2003. Clark was granted parole in 2019, three years after Cuomo commuted her sentence. She had been denied parole after her first hearing two years earlier.

Gilbert was not eligible for parole until 2056 before Cuomo commuted his sentence. The former governor said Gilbert made significant contributions to AIDS education and prevention programs, and worked as a tutor, law library clerk, paralegal assistant, teacher's aide and aide in various prison programs.

Chesa Boudin was raised by his parents' Weather Underground compatriots, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

He ran a progressive campaign for San Francisco district attorney in 2019 in which he said visiting his parents in prison showed him the criminal justice system was broken.

Brink's Robbery
David Gilbert, a former radical from the Weather Underground organization, was granted parole after spending 40 years in jail for his role in a 1981 robbery in which two cops and a guard were killed. Above, Gilbert (right) is escorted by police into the Village Hall in Nyack, New York, on October 24, 1981, for a hearing on felony murder charges stemming from the October 20, 1981, Brink's armored car robbery. David Handschuh/AP Photo