The son of a Brink’s security guard killed in a notorious 1981 heist said Tuesday he was “outraged” that Gov. Cuomo had commuted the sentence of a getaway driver who has become a model prisoner.
Michael Paige, whose father, Peter Paige, was killed in the robbery along with two Nyack cops, said Cuomo hadn’t properly considered the impact of his decision to reduce the sentence of Judith Clark.
“We’re outraged by it and sickened by it. I don’t understand how one person, Gov. Cuomo, gets to commute the sentence of a criminal who murdered three men, my father and two police officers,” Paige, a lawyer in Sayreville, N.J., told the Daily News.
“Who is Gov. Cuomo to undo the sentence that was imposed 35 years ago?”
On Friday, Cuomo announced he would commute Clark’s sentence for second-degree murder and robbery charges, meaning she can appear before a parole board in the coming months. Without the order, Clark would not have been eligible for parole until she turned 106.
Paige, 52, said he wasn’t sure if Cuomo — who visited Clark in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility — was actually familiar with the details of her case.
Cuomo said Monday that Clark was 20 years old at the time of her crime, when she was actually 31.
Cuomo also described Clark as an “accessory,” though she was convicted of murder.
She did not pull a trigger during the robbery.
“From the things I’ve heard, Gov. Cuomo doesn’t know the information,” Paige said.
“He’s just making this decision based on improper information.”
Clark’s transformation to model prisoner is a remarkable one. She was anything but a model defendant, Paige noted.
Clark, who attended Brooklyn’s Midwood High School, became a member of the radical left-wing Weather Underground in the 1970s.
She fell in with members of a revolutionary group, the Black Liberation Army, and on Oct. 20, 1981, six gunmen launched their surprise assault on a Brink’s truck at the Nanuet Mall. The robbers snatched $1.6 million from the truck and shot and killed Paige’s father. A second Brink’s guard, Joseph Trombino, was seriously wounded in the robbery. He would recover and then die on 9/11 while making a Brink’s delivery in the basement of the World Trade Center.
Clark drove one getaway car and fellow Weather Underground member Kathy Boudin drove a second.
Nyack Sgt. Edward O’Grady and Officer Waverly (Chipper) Brown were killed trying to stop the getaway vehicles at a nearby Thruway exit. Brown was the first black member of the Nyack Police Department.
Clark and two co-conspirators were arrested when she crashed her car. Cops said they saw her reaching for a 9-mm pistol on the floor of the ride as they took her into custody. Clark denies she was reaching for a gun.
Michael Paige's father, Peter Paige, lies dead after the surprise attack (l.). Clark was convicted on second-degree murder and robbery charges.
In custody, Clark embraced her identity as a freedom fighter and chose to act as her own attorney.
Tried along with two accomplices, Clark delivered a radical manifesto in court instead of a typical defense.
“I am an anti-imperialist freedom fighter. I don’t recognize the legitimacy of this court,” she said at trial.
“The DA calls what happened on Oct. 20, 1981, a robbery and murder. We say it was an attempted expropriation because revolutionary forces must take from the power that be to build their capabilities to struggle against this system,” Clark said.
She was sentenced to 75 years in prison as she sported an unrepentant smile.
“This woman, who thumbed her nose at the justice system — basically said ‘F you’ to (the) whole system — she got the sentence she deserved,” Paige said.
He and other officials have promised to fight Clark’s effort to win parole.
“Minimizing the lives of law enforcement officers only leads to more deaths of officers and civilians alike,” Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe has said. “Allowing Clark to be released merely reinforces this idea.”
Clark’s attorney, Steven Zeidman, did not return a call seeking comment. He previously told The News his client understands the controversy that came with her commuted sentence.
“If anyone is worthy of mercy, we believe Judy Clark is,” Zeidman said. “She is very grateful to the governor, she is very excited, but she is aware that this news will be painful and difficult to those who lost loved ones in the Brink’s robbery.”
Clark has a wide array of people vouching for her.
The retired chairman of New York State Board of Parole, 13 former presidents of the New York City bar association and more than 1,000 supporters say she is an ideal reformed prisoner deserving of clemency.
“Over many years, I watched (Clark) change into one of the most perceptive, thoughtful, helpful and profound human beings that I have ever known either inside or outside of a prison,” Elaine Lord, the retired superintendent of Bedford Hills Prison wrote.
But Paige worried that Cuomo had only heard Clark’s voices of support.
“It’s somewhat telling the governor ... has such high regard for her based on what she has told him,” Paige said. “I would like to know if the governor spoke to the (Rockland County) district attorney. Or why didn’t the governor come visit with me or my mother or my sister or the O’Grady family or the Brown family?”
O’Grady’s son, Edward J. O’Grady III, did not share Paige’s outrage.
“The release of Judith Clark will take no more away from me and will bring no more hurt to my life,” he wrote to The New York Times.
Her supporters note that some of Clark’s accomplices in the robbery got off easier than she did.
Boudin, who pleaded guilty to one charge of second-degree murder, was sentenced to 20 years to life and received parole in 2003.
Even the alleged mastermind of the heist, Mutulu Shakur, got a 60-year sentence and will be eligible for parole in 2018. His first application for parole was denied earlier this year.
Clark told The Times she first broke down in 1986 when she thought about how she would not be able to raise her daughter, Harriet, who was an infant at the time of the crime.
She also hurt because her crime left other children fatherless, she said. That moment represented a radical shift.
Only a year earlier, an arrest of fugitives led authorities to letters from Clark hinting at an escape plan. That discovery, resulting in her being placed in solitary confinement for two years, “really set in motion the collapse of my defiant mindset,” Clark said.
She embarked on a transformation from radical to model prisoner, earning two college degrees and taking part in programs that trained service dogs and tutored other inmates. She appealed and sought a new trial, which then-Manhattan Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin granted in 2006 on the grounds that she lacked representation during critical parts of the trial when Clark had been removed for being disruptive.
In 2008, that decision was reversed by a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that included now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. But Clark’s supporters continued pushing for mercy.
“She’s done great work while she was in prison,” said Cuomo. “She helped many, many people. She’s done a lot generous acts, so I believe she has the right to make her case.”Send a Letter to the Editor