New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York City, May 10, 2021. (Mary Altaffer/Pool via Reuters)
Andrew Cuomo managed one last outrage on his way out the door before his resignation became effective at midnight on Monday: He granted clemency to David Gilbert, along with three other murderers.
Gilbert and Kathy Boudin were the getaway drivers for the 1981 Brink’s armored-car heist that killed Brink’s guard Peter Paige and police officers Waverly Brown and Edward O’Grady, who collectively left behind three widows and six fatherless children, the youngest six months of age. (Three others were wounded.) Gilbert claims that he never intended for anyone to get hurt, and this claim is echoed today by the influential son he had with Kathy Boudin, San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin, who said yesterday that Gilbert “never intended harm.”
This was always nonsense. The Brink’s robbery was not just a crime; it was carried out by members of a pair of left-wing domestic-terrorist groups, the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army. The people Gilbert and Boudin were driving came armed with M-16s, shotguns, and body armor. Their weapons were powerful enough to blow a huge hole in the reinforced windshield of the armored car:
The killers, who also included Tupac Shakur’s stepfather, waited in ambush for the armored car and gunned down the two Nyack police officers at a roadblock. Gilbert and Boudin were selected as the drivers rather than the robbers simply because they were white, and the gang assumed that they’d be less likely to be stopped by police looking for black suspects. At trial, far from showing remorse, Gilbert and his co-defendants “spent the trial claiming they were political prisoners and freedom fighters and disrupted what they deemed illegitimate proceedings by raising their fists and shouting, ‘Free the land!’” The fact that Gilbert was unarmed does not change the essential fact that he participated in an act of political terrorism.
This was not a nonviolent group in general:
The left-wing terror group orchestrated a series of bombings in the 1970s. The group was allegedly behind the 1970 firebombing of the home of a New York Supreme Court justice who was set to preside over a trial of members of the Black Panthers. Three Weather Underground members died later that year while making bombs that they hoped to detonate at a social event held at Fort Dix, an Army base in New Jersey. Kathy Boudin was helping make the bombs but escaped unharmed after the explosion.
The Weather Underground bombed the Capitol in 1971, the Pentagon in 1972 (on Ho Chi Minh’s birthday), and the State Department headquarters in 1975. Gilbert was, quite rightly, sentenced to 75 years to life.
Somehow, though, these domestic terrorists have managed to get the radical-chic treatment from supposedly respectable Democratic politicians and academia. One of Gilbert’s co-defendants, Judith Clark, was set free by Cuomo in 2019. Kathy Boudin was released in 2003 after two decades in prison and was hired to teach at Columbia University. Bernardine Dohrn, formerly of the FBI’s Most Wanted List, served another seven months in 1982 for refusing to cooperate with the Brink’s grand jury. When she got out, she settled down with her husband, Bill Ayers, another unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist. “I don’t regret setting bombs, I feel we didn’t do enough,” Ayers told the New York Times in an interview published the morning of September 11, 2001. Ayers and Dohrn took custody of Chesa Boudin, then a toddler, and raised him in their home. Dohrn got a gig at Northwestern Law; Ayers became a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He later received thousands of dollars in education-grant money routed to him by his friend Barack Obama. Obama launched his first political fundraiser in the house where Ayers and Dohrn were raising Chesa Boudin but claimed that he had no idea who they were.
Why do Democrats and liberal academia keep doing this sort of thing? Bill Clinton, for example, pardoned Puerto Rican terrorists. Sixties radicals, even those with undeniable blood on their hands, have all too often been treated sentimentally not only by progressive activists but by mainstream Democrats of Cuomo’s ilk.
There is no traditional counterpart to this on the right, no comparable history of pardoning abortion-clinic bombers, giving professorships to white-nationalist militia leaders, or having cocktail-party shindigs with arsonists. Donald Trump’s worst pardons were typically government officials or soldiers. Even efforts by some on the MAGA right to make a cause celebre of the Capitol rioters or Kyle Rittenhouse have not gained the kind of support from conservative institutions or mainstream Republican politicians that leftist terrorists and rioters have enjoyed for decades.
Letting Gilbert out of jail is one last scandal. It is not at all out of character for Cuomo or his party.
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