The New York Board of Parole announced on Wednesday the decision of Governor Andrew Cuomo not to run for president. They did this by opting to release Judith Clark, a domestic terrorist convicted of three counts of murder. The oblique manner of the governor revealing his political plans follows a blunter decision in 2016 to commute her sentence of 75-years-to-life to 35-years-to-life, making her eligible for parole, which the board initially denied in 2017 but granted this time around.
Clark, a red-diaper baby who lived in the Soviet Union for three years as a child, served as a getaway driver in an armed robbery of a Brink’s truck to fund the revolutionary activities, and the drug addictions, of the various players involved. The action resulted in the theft of $1.6 million and the deaths of three men, Brink’s guard, Peter Paige, and two Nyack, New York, policemen, Edward O’Grady and Waverly Brown, and the wounding of two other Brink’s guards and a cop. When Clark crashed the getaway car after a chase, cops recovered $800,000 and a gun under her seat.
The combined action of the May 19th Communist Organization and the Black Liberation Army on October 20, 1981, followed more than a decade of criminal activity by Clark. In 1969, Chicago police arrested Clark for participating in the Days of Rage, a Weatherman-organized orgy of violence that resulted in paralyzing an aide to Mayor Richard Daley. Later that same year at the Weatherman’s “Wargasm” in Flint, Michigan, where Weathermen spoke approvingly of Charles Manson, Clark, along with future Brinks co-conspirator Kathy Boudin and Diana Oughton, who died in a Greenwich Village townhouse-turned-bomb-factory just months later, created a poster spelling out murdered actress Sharon Tate’s name in bullets. While many of her Weatherman comrades hid underground during the 1970s, Clark continued her revolutionary activities.
“We had suspicions that they, the May 19th Communist Organization and the FALN (Armed Forces of National Liberation), had participated in the escapes of Assata Shakur and Marilyn Buck,” Donald Wofford, the FBI case agent assigned to the New York portion of the FALN investigation, tells The American Spectator. “Judy Clark was totally involved with the FALN terrorist group and the Black Liberation Army. She was a main player in those escapes and a whole series of armored car robberies.”
One such robbery occurred in the Bronx four months before the Nyack heist. This June 1981 robbery left Brink’s workers William Moroney dead and Michael Schlachter disabled. Upon Clark’s conviction for the Nyack murders, law enforcement regarded her prosecution for the Bronx case, and other alleged violations of the law, as unnecessary given that her sentence made her eligible for parole years past her 100th birthday.
“From a criminal perspective, she was a trusted member of ‘The Family,’ which they called themselves,” Kenneth Maxwell, one of two FBI case agents assigned to the deadly Nyack robbery, tells The American Spectator. “She was not a peripheral player. She was a major player. She was a principal in several indictments, including her role in the June [Bronx] robbery and murder, and the armed escape of Joanne Chesimard (Assata Shakur) and [FALN bomber] Willie Morales. If you look at the circumstances of her arrest, she was reaching under the seat of the car in which she was driving, she was reaching under the seat for a nine-millimeter, clearly intending to use it against the arresting officers who prevented that from happening.”
Before a lineup viewing, Clark spit at, bit, and kicked her captors, necessitating them putting her in a straitjacket. At trial, Clark petitioned for prisoner-of-war status, demanded a change of venue to another nation, and asked potential jurors, “Do your children play cowboys and Indians?” Clark told the court, “The D.A. calls what happened on October 20, 1981, a robbery and murder. We say it was an attempted expropriation because revolutionary forces must take from the powers that be to build their capabilities to struggle against this system.” A thwarted, 1985 escape plan meted out time in solitary confinement, and two years added to her sentence.
Whereas fellow Brink’s robber and Weatherman David Gilbert remained a committed revolutionary, Clark, for show or for real, mellowed. She apologized for her actions, earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, trained guide and service dogs, and educated inmates about AIDS.
“As a human being, I have some empathy,” Maxwell notes, “and I’m really encouraged by the way she turned her life around to do good things in prison. But granting her parole is certainly not true justice. She should continue doing good deeds but behind prison walls.”
Retired FBI agent Wofford worries that the authorities missed an opportunity to glean valuable information from Clark before her release.
“If she had agreed to tell what she knew about all these different groups,” Wofford explains, “it would have substantially helped to establish what players in these groups were responsible for what. For instance, the Fraunces Tavern bombing—there’s not any doubt in my mind she knows who put that bomb down.”