Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that a former radical who drove a getaway car during a 1981 Brinks armed car robbery that left three dead impressed him as community-minded when they met before he commuted her sentence to let her seek parole.
The Democrat said he believes Judith Clark should be able to make her case for freedom, but he emphasized that the decision will rest with a parole board.
Clark, a former Weather Underground member, has served 35 years of a 75-years-to-life sentence for her role in the $1.6 million robbery at a mall in suburban Rockland County.
A security guard, Peter Paige, was killed during the heist, and less than an hour later, two Nyack police officers, Waverly Brown and Sgt. Edward O'Grady, were killed in an ambush after stopping a truck at a roadside checkpoint.
Cuomo noted that some of Clark's co-defendants served less time and that Clark has been a model prisoner.
The commutation will allow the 67-year-old to appear before the parole board in early 2017. Under her previous sentence, she would not have been eligible for parole consideration until she was 106.
The Weather Underground was a 1960s group of increasingly violent anti-war activists. Clark, at the time of her trial, called herself a freedom fighter, insisted on representing herself and then refused to go to court, remaining in a cell.
In a 2002 sworn statement, she expressed regret and said she had rejected her radical beliefs.
The governor's decision has outraged Michael Paige, whose father was killed in the robbery.
"For Gov. Cuomo to even think of commuting the sentence of a triple murderer who murdered police officers and my father - that, to me, is the gravest form of injustice to these three men, who were killed standing their ground and protecting us," Paige said by phone.