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Man Convicted in ’81 Brink’s Robbery Wins Release From New York Prison

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David Gilbert, a participant in the infamous armed robbery of a Brink’s armored car in 1981, a politically motivated ambush that left two police officers and a guard dead, has been granted parole after spending 40 years behind bars for his role in the attack, officials said on Tuesday.

Mr. Gilbert, 77, will be released from prison by Nov. 30. He was granted a parole hearing this month after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo commuted Mr. Gilbert’s sentence on his final day in office in August, in the wake of sexual abuse accusations. In commuting the sentence, Mr. Cuomo cited Mr. Gilbert’s work in AIDS education and prevention while in prison, and his work teaching and clerking in the law library.

Mr. Gilbert was 37 on the day of the attack, Oct. 20, 1981, in which $1.6 million in cash was stolen from the armored car outside the Nanuet Mall near Nyack, N.Y. The heist was planned by the Black Liberation Army and the May 19th Communist Organization, and immediately became a centerpiece in the pantheon of political violence in the United States. Mr. Gilbert was convicted of robbery and felony murder.

He was unapologetic at his sentencing in 1983, where he was given 75 years to life, reading from a prepared statement: “The rulers, the rich and their armed mercenaries are the only lives valued by this court. We say that if they sentence us to 1,000 years or shoot us at dawn tomorrow, it will not save this social system.” His original earliest date for a parole hearing was to have been in 2056 before Mr. Cuomo intervened.

He had been in a getaway vehicle with Kathy Boudin, with whom he had a toddler son. Ms. Boudin was released in 2003 after receiving a 20-year sentence as part of a plea deal, and went on to become a professor at Columbia University.

The couple’s son, Chesa Boudin, was elected the district attorney of San Francisco in 2019, and led a campaign urging his father’s release from prison.

Mr. Boudin’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement issued after Mr. Cuomo commuted Mr. Gilbert’s sentence, Mr. Boudin said he was “overcome with emotion.”

“Although he never used a gun or intended for anyone to get hurt, my father’s crime caused unspeakable harm and devastated the lives of many separate families,” Mr. Boudin said in the statement. “I will continue to keep those families in my heart; I know they can never get their loved ones back.”

Killed in the robbery were Sgt. Edward O’Grady, Officer Waverly Brown and Peter Paige, a Brink’s guard. The attack remains at the fore in Rockland County, and a memorial at the site of the shooting, Mountainview Avenue at the entrance to the New York State Thruway, is held every year at exactly 4 p.m., close to the time it occurred. Last week’s ceremony drew a crowd of more than 500.

“This was a terrible injustice by Governor Cuomo,” said Arthur Keenan Jr., a retired detective with the Nyack Police Department, who was wounded in the shootout. He has been a tireless opponent of releasing the people convicted in the attack, and has called the former governor “a traitor.”

Mr. Gilbert is the second Brink’s defendant to find favor with Mr. Cuomo. In 2016, Mr. Cuomo commuted the 75-year sentence of Judith Clark, praising her “exceptional strides in self-development.” She was later released on parole.

Ed Shanahan contributed reporting.

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