Photo caption: David Gilbert, 76, with his son Chesa Boudin, now the district attorney of San Francisco. Gilbert’s sentence was commuted by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo just hours before he was scheduled to leave office. (Courtesy Chesa Boudin)(Provided photo)
David Gilbert, imprisoned for four decades, can take case to parole board
August 23rd, 2021
ALBANY — Just hours before leaving office, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo granted clemency to five men, including the commutation of the 75-years-to-life sentence of David Gilbert, a former member of the radical Weather Underground who in 1981 took part in the robbery of a Brink’s armored truck in Rockland County that left two Nyack police officers and a security guard dead.
Cuomo’s action will allow Gilbert to make his case to the parole board. The 76-year-old has been incarcerated for four decades after being convicted of felony murder and robbery. He is currently confined at Shawangunk Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Ulster County, 80 miles south of Albany.
Steve Zeidman, a CUNY Law School professor who began representing Gilbert in 2019, said Monday evening that his client is one of the oldest and longest-serving among the state’s roughly 38,000 inmates. He said that Gilbert has expressed deep remorse for his role in the crime, and while behind bars has taken part in efforts such as the creation of an AIDS education program that became a statewide model as the epidemic was raging in the 1980s and ’90s.
Zeidman, who directs the law school’s Criminal Defense Clinic, said that beyond the impact on Gilbert personally, Cuomo’s action sends a message to incarcerated people who fear they have no chance for release. “When a governor issues clemency, it echoes, it reverberates, it spreads hope,” he said.
Gilbert’s son, Chesa Boudin, was elected district attorney for San Francisco in 2019. His mother, Kathy Boudin, was also incarcerated for decades for her part in the heist, and received parole in 2003.
The Times Union’s Paul Grondahl wrote in November about the efforts of Chesa Boudin and Green Island’s Jeff Jones, a family friend and former ’60s radical turned environmental advocate, to press Cuomo to release Gilbert from prison — especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As someone who has known David since 1966, I’m just ecstatic,” Jones said Monday evening. ” … He’s a guy who deserves to be out of prison.”
Gilbert and Kathy Boudin were in a transfer truck waiting for the getaway car carrying the robbers and the $1.6 million they had stolen from the Brink’s truck at the Nanuet Mall. Boudin received a sentence of 25 years to life after hiring a lawyer, pleading guilty and accepting a plea deal; Gilbert defended himself and went to trial.
“My father was not present in the courtroom for much of the trial and nobody advocated for him, which is why it is a bad idea to represent yourself,” Chesa Boudin told Grondahl. “My mother and father did the exact same thing and had identical culpability in the crime. My mother served 22 years in prison and was paroled 17 years ago, while my father is still in prison. It’s an example of criminal justice imbalance.”
Boudin noted that his father is perhaps the only person his age who has served as many years in state prison who was unarmed during the commission of the crime. Another Brink’s robbery co-defendant, Weather Underground member Judith Clark, who drove the getaway car, was granted parole in 2019 after Cuomo commuted her 75-years-to-life sentence in 2016. Prosecutors and law enforcement bitterly opposed her parole and called it an insult to the victims’ family members.
Tarred by scandal, Cuomo is scheduled to relinquish his office at 11:59 p.m. Also Monday, he commuted the sentences of four other individuals who will not have to go before the parole board to earn release. They are:
- Greg Mingo, 68, convicted of four counts of second-degree murder as well as burglary and weapons charges, who has served 39 years of a 50-years-to-life sentence;
- Robert Ehrenberg, 62, was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder as well as robbery and burglary charges, who served 28 years of a 50-year-to-life sentence;
- Ulysses Boyd, 66, convicted of one count of second-degree murder and weapons charges for an incident in which he was not the gunman, who has served 35 years of a 50-years-to-life sentence.
- Paul Clark, 59, convicted of three counts of second-degree murder and one count of second-degree attempted murder, who served 40 years of an aggregate 58 years and 4 months-to-life sentence.
As with Gilbert’s case, Cuomo cited the men’s efforts to educate themselves and do good works while incarcerated.
Note: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect first name for attorney Steve Zeidman.