Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

AMBUSH: THE BRINKS ROBBERY OF 1981

Brown and Boudin

On the very day that David Gilbert was convicted, he and Kathy Boudin were married at the Orange County Jail. After the ceremony, they were separated and left to deal with their own individual destinies. Kathy Boudin, unlike the other members of the B.L.A. and the Weather Underground, had private attorneys. Her father, the noted civil rights attorney, Leonard Boudin, had secured one of New York City's best criminal lawyers, Leonard Weinglass. Her defense team imagined that they had a reasonable chance to get her acquitted of the murder charge. She hadn't fired a gun, no one could put her at the Brink's robbery scene and she came out of the U Haul truck with her arms raised. It would have helped her to have Gilbert's testimony in support. But because Gilbert imagined he would be considered a "traitor" if he testified, he declined.

In April 1984, Weinglass told D.A. Gribetz that Boudin would be willing to deal. A guilty plea would benefit both sides and also bring this part of the case to a conclusion. The District Attorney's Office had already spent millions of dollars of taxpayer's money to prosecute the case and there was no end in sight. Boudin's family had also spent a great deal of money and was emotionally exhausted. Kathy had already spent nearly three years in jail and had yet to go to trial.

In a stunning turnaround, on April 26, 1984, Kathy Boudin stood in a Westchester County Court in the City of White Plains and pled guilty to murder and robbery charges in the Brink's holdup. To a quiet and subdued courtroom, she told of her involvement in the shooting and expressed regret. "I feel terrible about the lives that were lost. I have led a commitment to political principles and I think I can be true to those principles without engaging in violent acts," she said. Boudin received a 20-years-to-life sentence. Many people were unhappy with that result. If she was found guilty at a trial, she could have received three consecutive 25-years-to-life terms. At her sentencing, she sounded less remorseful. "I want my motivations to be understood. I was there out of my commitment to the black liberation struggle and its underground movement. I am a white woman who does not want the crimes committed against black people carried out in my name," she said.

Samuel Brown
Samuel Brown

That left Samuel Brown to face prosecution alone. Since he had nothing to lose by going to trial, he elected to have one. His trial was held in the same Westchester County Court as Boudin. Various witnesses came to the stand to describe how they saw Brown shooting at the Nyack police officers at Mountainview Avenue. Others also testified that they saw him at the Brink's robbery scene when security guard Peter Paige was murdered. Chief Colsey testified as to how he arrested Brown, Gilbert and Clark after their car crashed into a wall in Nyack. Brown also chose to take the stand. He told the court he had no idea that the others were planning a robbery. He said that he was in the back of the U Haul because he was supposed to do some work for a man he couldn't identify. After riding in the U Haul for a while, he fell asleep and when the shooting started, he just wanted to get away from the scene. Brown said he then jumped into a car with some white people and later, the car crashed, which explained how he was arrested.

But the jury didn't buy it. Witnesses had placed Brown at both the Brink's robbery scene and the Mountainview shootout where Sgt. O'Grady and Officer Brown were killed. Other witnesses identified him as one of the men firing at the cops. And, of course, he was arrested along with Gilbert and Clark at the Honda crash scene.

After six hours of debating the issue, the jury returned with a guilty verdict on all charges. He was later sentenced to 75 years to life.

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