During the parole hearing, David Gilbert described the radical journey
NEW YORK – Former Weather Underground radical David Gilbert described his journey from a non-violent 1960s activist to a potential revolutionary during a 4.5-hour hearing before the parole board committee of the New York State who approved his parole in October, 40 years after serving. as a fleeing driver in Brink’s failed robbery that left three dead and several injured.
“The change for me came after the assassination of Martin Luther King,” Gilbert told a three-member panel during his October 19 parole hearing at Shawangunk Correctional Center in the Hudson Valley.
The 171-page transcript of the parole hearing was turned over to The Associated Press on Thursday in response to an access to information request. The names of the people and other details have been redacted.
Gilbert, now 77, told parole board members that when riots broke out in cities across the United States following King’s 1968 murder and the murders of other civil rights activists, “it was at that time that I gave up nonviolent philosophy “.
Gilbert and other former members of the radical Weather Underground joined Black Liberation Army activists in the October 20, 1981 armored car theft near the community of Nyack on the Hudson River. Brink’s guard Peter Paige and two police officers from Nyack, Sgt. Edward O’Grady and Officer Waverly Brown were killed in the $ 1.6 million heist and subsequent shootout.
Although unarmed, Gilbert was charged with theft and murder for his role in the crime and sentenced to 75 years in life.
Gilbert became eligible for parole when his sentence was commuted by former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo just before he left office in August. Cuomo, in announcing the switch, said Gilbert’s convictions “were related to an incident in which he was the driver, not the murderer.”
The commission granted Gilbert parole on October 26 and he was released from prison on November 4.
Gilbert’s attorney Steve Zeidman said Thursday Gilbert is grateful to the parole board and is adjusting to life outside of prison. “The board is to be commended for focusing on the present rather than the past,” Zeidman said.
Gilbert’s release was defended by supporters, including his son, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, but faced opposition from law enforcement groups and family members of the victims of Brink.
“Former Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Parole Board should be ashamed of allowing this national terrorist to roam our streets freely,” Rockland County Director Ed Day said when Gilbert obtained the parole in October. “There is no reason why David Gilbert should not have to face the full consequences of his heinous crimes no matter how much time has passed.”
Gilbert has repeatedly expressed his grief for the victims during his parole hearing.
“I mean, nothing mends the horror and damage of crime, nothing,” Gilbert said. He said that nothing made up for what “families went through, women without husbands and children without fathers and, as you pointed out, a number of other injured people, the sense of security of an entire community. is broken, then justice in that sense, there’s no way to fix it or make up for it. “
During the hearing, which one of the commissioners said lasted four and a half hours, Gilbert reviewed his history as a teenage civil rights movement supporter and student activist at Columbia University. who increasingly radicalized and joined the Weather Underground, an activist split from the militant group Students for a Democratic Society.
At the time of the Brink’s robbery, Gilbert had been living in hiding for several years and was living under assumed names to evade the law as his radical colleagues planned bombings against government facilities. Gilbert said his role was primarily that of an educator, leading classes and discussion groups while others made bombs.
Gilbert’s partner at the time, Kathy Boudin, was also convicted of the Brink’s robbery and released from prison in 2003. Chesa Boudin was a toddler when her parents were arrested.
“We actually dropped off our son – you know, the cutest creature in the world – dropped him off at a babysitter and told him we’ll be back in a few hours,” Gilbert told the parole board. conditional.
Chesa Boudin was elected San Francisco District Attorney in 2019 as part of a nationwide wave of progressive prosecutors determined to reform the criminal justice system. He faces a recall election in June, spurred by critics who say he has not prosecuted repeat offenders and allowed them to commit more crimes.
Associated Press writer Michael Hill contributed to this report from Albany, New York.