Judith Clark, a 69-year-old woman who participated in a botched robbery that left three people dead, will be paroled after serving 37 years in a New York prison.
In 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo commuted Clark’s 75-years-to-life sentence, making her eligible for parole. The New York Times reports that a group of supporters, among them 70 elected officials, sent a letter to the parole board arguing that Clark was rehabilitated and should be set free. After a board hearing on April 3, a panel voted two-to-one to release Clark from prison. She is due to be paroled on May 15.
Clark was once a far-left activist connected to the Black Liberation Army and the May 19th Communist Organization, a radical left-wing group. On October 20, 1981, she drove the getaway car during an attempt to steal $1.6 million from a Brink’s armored vehicle; the perpetrators planned to use the money to fund a guerrilla uprising. A security guard, Peter Paige, was killed during the incident. Two police officers, Sergeant Edward O’Grady and Officer Waverly Brown, were subsequently murdered when they tried to stop a van involved in the crime.
During her trial, Clark was defiant, calling herself “an anti-imperialist freedom fighter” and insisting that violence was “a liberating force,” according to the Times. But after years in prison, Clark appeared to change her perspective. “I had to grapple with what happened to my humanity,” she said in 2017.
Clark became a model prisoner. She obtained two degrees, launched initiatives to improve prenatal care in prison, led educational programs and helped train service dogs. After the parole board’s decision to release her, Clark’s lawyer Michael Cardozo said in a statement: “We are grateful that the parole board affirmed what everyone who has interacted with Judy already knows — that she is a rehabilitated, remorseful woman who poses no threat to society.”
Law enforcement groups, Republican officials and other conservative legal authorities had previously advocated against her release. And for some of those who were impacted by Clark’s crimes, the decision to set her free opened old wounds. Arthur Keenan, a former detective who was injured during the heist, told the Times that he does not believe Clark’s good behavior in prison makes up for her past misdeeds. He also noted that he continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress as a result of the incident.
“Doesn’t what happened to the people who lost loved ones and were wounded matter?” he asked.