After nearly 40 years behind bars serving time for a botched armored truck robbery in which a security guard and two police officers were killed, 76-year-old David Gilbert has been granted clemency by former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Gilbert, who is the father of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, has been in jail since his son was a toddler for his part in a 1981 robbery of a Brink's armored truck. Gilbert, then a member of the radical group The Weather Underground along with Boudin's mother, Kathy Boudin, had joined forces with the Black Liberation Army to rob the truck outside a mall in Nanuet, New York. Other members of the group fatally shot Brink's guard Peter Paige, and in a subsequent confrontation with Nyack police officers, killed officers Edward O'Grady and Waverly Brown.
Gilbert was convicted in 1983 of three counts of felony murder, under a New York law that permits murder convictions for all accomplices.
Kathy Boudin served 20 years behind bars and was paroled in 2003, despite participating in the crime in much the same way that her husband did — something that her son has cited as one of his motivations to pursue a career in criminal justice.
Another participant in the heist, Judith Alice Clark, was granted clemency by Cuomo in 2016, and she was paroled in 2019.
And now, in his final moments as governor before midnight on Monday night, Cuomo commuted Gilbert's sentence — which means he may now go before a parole board for possible release. As the Associated Press reports, Gilbert was one of four clemency candidates presented to the governor by the Defenders Clinic at the City University of New York’s Law School, all of whom also had their sentences commuted Monday night.
"My heart is bursting," Chesa Boudin said on Twitter last night. "On the eve of my first child's birth, my dad — who's been in prison nearly my entire life — was granted clemency. He never intended harm, yet his crime devastated many families."
He added, "My heart breaks for the families that can never get their loved ones back."
Me and my dad in one of our last precious moment of freedom together. pic.twitter.com/ZaOYdn1tx4— Chesa Boudin 博徹思 (@chesaboudin) August 24, 2021
In his own statement about the clemency, Cuomo tweeted, "He has served 40 years of a 75-year sentence, related to an incident in which he was the driver, not the murderer."
As the New York Times reports, the victims in the 1981 robbery are not pleased with the governor's decision.
Retired Nyack Police detective Arthur Keenan Jr., who was wounded in the shootout that killed two of his colleagues, called the clemency grant "absurd," and he tells the Times that Cuomo is "stabbing all of law enforcement in the back" by commuting Gilbert's sentence.
Gilbert still may not be released from prison — in the case of Clark, who received her commutation in 2016, she was denied parole once in 2017 before ultimately being paroled two years later.