August 21, 2003
Former Radical Granted Parole in '81 Killings
athy Boudin, the former radical fugitive who pleaded guilty for her role in a 1981 armored-car robbery and shootout that killed a guard and two police officers in Rockland County, N.Y., was granted parole yesterday after 22 years in prison.
Ms. Boudin, 60, had been denied parole in 2001 and again three months ago, when a state parole board ruled that her efforts to arrange programs for AIDS patients and mothers in prison as well as college courses for inmates did not outweigh "the serious and brutal nature" of her role in the crimes.
But yesterday, two parole commissioners — not the ones who presided in May — decided that she should be freed. She will be released by Oct. 1, a spokesman for the State Division of Parole said, but her lawyer said he expected her to leave prison far sooner, perhaps within days.
The ruling by the two commissioners, Vernon C. Manley and Daizzee D. Bouey, came after a 76-minute hearing at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, said Thomas P. Grant, the spokesman for the parole division. The session was not open to the public and a transcript was not immediately available, he said.
Ms. Boudin (pronounced boo-DEEN) was told of the decision two hours after the hearing ended. Her lawyer, Leonard I. Weinglass of Manhattan, said, "There was a lot of crying, a lot of uncontrollable crying and sobbing and joy," when she called from the prison to tell him. "She was hysterically happy."
Her release had long been opposed by the victims' families, and as word of the parole decision circulated yesterday, their anger flared anew.
Officer John Hanchar, a nephew of Sgt. Edward O'Grady, one of the two police officers killed, noted that the decision was handed down on what would have been the sergeant's 55th birthday. "People say she's been such a great person in prison," said Officer Hanchar, who works for the Clarkstown Police Department in Rockland County and now patrols the intersection where his uncle was shot. "We don't know what great things these three men would have accomplished had they not been killed."
Ms. Boudin — who had graduated magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College and was the daughter of Leonard B. Boudin, a civil liberties lawyer whose clients ranged from Julian Bond and Paul Robeson to Daniel Ellsberg — had belonged to the Weather Underground, one of the most notorious revolutionary groups from the 1960's. An offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society, it took responsibility for at least 20 bombings from 1969 to 1975. Its targets included Police Headquarters in Manhattan in 1970, the United States Capitol in 1971 and the State Department in 1975.
When she was captured minutes after the murders of the police officers, she was a fugitive from an explosion 11 years earlier in a Greenwich Village town house that the Weathermen had used as a bomb factory. Three Weathermen died in the blast. She was also wanted on a bail-jumping charge in connection with the Days of Rage antiwar demonstrations in Chicago in 1969.
Ms. Boudin could have received three consecutive sentences of 25 years to life in prison if she had been convicted of the three deaths in the Rockland robbery. But she pleaded guilty in 1984 after passing a lie detector test that supported her claim that she had been only a decoy whose role was to distract Sergeant O'Grady and two officers when they stopped a rented van at a roadblock leading to the Gov. Thomas E. Dewey Thruway.
The officers were looking for the gunmen who had opened fire on two Brink's guards outside a bank at the nearby Nanuet Mall and had made off with $1.6 million in cash. In the robbery, the guards were attacked by three men who piled out of a red van and began shooting.
One guard, Peter Paige, was killed. Two colleagueswere wounded.
The gunmen sped away. Prosecutors said they soon abandoned the van and climbed into two cars and the U-Haul van, the one that Sergeant O'Grady and the two officers stopped at the Thruway roadblock. As they were questioning Ms. Boudin in the front of the van, another officer was checking the door in back.
He found it locked, the police said at the time, but a moment later it burst open and several men poured out, their guns blazing. Though the assailants from the van ran off and the two cars sped away as Sergeant O'Grady and Officer Waverly Brown lay dying, Ms. Boudin was captured by an off-duty correction officer. The third officer, Arthur Keenan, was wounded
Three defendants — David J. Gilbert, Judith A. Clark and Kuwasi Balagoon, who was also known as Donald Weems — were convicted of murder in Orange County Court in Goshen, N.Y., in 1983. A fourth, Samuel Brown, was found guilty in a separate trial in White Plains in 1984.
Ms. Boudin's campaign to win parole had drawn support from clergymen, social workers and such well-known figures as the conservative editor and commentator William F. Buckley Jr. She had also won over Norma Hill, who was dragged from her car by the gunmen near the Thruway roadblock. Ms. Hill, who was a prosecution witness, met Ms. Boudin while working as a volunteer with AIDS patients at Bedford Hills.
"She is a gentle woman who made a bad decision who has worked hard to try and make up for that," Ms. Hill said yesterday.
Gov. George E. Pataki, who said in 2001 that he opposed parole for Ms. Boudin, had no comment on the parole decision, a spokeswoman said. The spokeswoman, Lynn Rasic, said the two commissioners who approved Ms. Boudin's parole were appointed by Mr. Pataki in 1999.
Ms. Boudin faces one more hurdle before she can leave prison. Parole officers will now look into her housing and employment prospects.
Mr. Weinglass, her lawyer, said that review should go quickly. He said that her application for parole had included documents about a job offer to work as an AIDS researcher and that she planned to complete her doctorate. She earned a master's degree in adult education while she was in prison, he said.
As for her housing arrangements, Charlotte Phillips, a doctor who lives in Brooklyn, said she and her husband, Oliver Fein, had offered to let Ms. Boudin live with them.
"We've tried to be there for her when she was in prison," Dr. Phillips said in a telephone interview, "and we have space in our home." She said she and Dr. Fein had met Ms. Boudin in Cleveland in the mid-1960's when Ms. Boudin was a community organizer for Students for a Democratic Society.
The May parole hearing amounted to a continuation of Ms. Boudin's initial parole hearing from 2001, which became tangled in a legal challenge and had to be done over, said Mr. Grant, the parole division spokesman. Prisoners with a record like Ms. Boudin's are eligible for a hearing every two years after their minimum sentence is served.
Ms. Boudin and Mr. Gilbert, one of her co-defendants, had a son, Chesa Boudin, who was 14 months old at the time of the robbery. He was raised by two other leaders of the Weathermen, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. He graduated from Yale University in the spring after being named a Rhodes scholar.