Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

AMBUSH: THE BRINKS ROBBERY OF 1981

The Agony of Parole

Kathy Boudin
Kathy Boudin

"This is a slap in the face of every officer in our state and our nation who put their lives on the line every day to protect the citizens of our country. It is the worst travesty of justice that I have seen in a long time!" Such were the words of Fraternal Order of Police President Frank Ferreyra when he learned of the New York State parole board decision to free 60-year-old Kathy Boudin.

Boudin, a former Weather Underground member, has been in prison for the past 22 years for her role in the notorious Brinks armored car robbery in Nyack in 1981, during which two police officers and a security guard were murdered. On August 20, 2003, the two-member parole board voted to release the 1960s radical as early as it may be feasible.

Boudin said of her early years, "I had an ideology...that said essentially, white people, beause of having privilege, are essentially bad." But the parole commissioners took notice of the good work performed by Boudin during her incarceration, including her assistance to inmates who have AIDS.

Her attorney, Leonard Weinglass, told reporters. "It's only just and fair she be released in accordance with the agreement."

Her son, Chesa Boudin, 23, told the press that her mother wants to apologize personally to the victims' families. "It's very important to her that the families of those three men - know how terribly she feels about what happened," he said.

Chesa's father, David Gilbert, who drove one of the getaway vehicles in the bloody hold-up, is serving a 75-year-to-life sentence in Attica prison and will be eligible for parole himself in 2056. Gilbert has never cooperated with authorities in the investigation of the crime, which netted Boudin and friends $1.6 million in cash.

Chesa was later raised by comrades Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and recently graduated from college. "If there is anything any of us could do to go back and change history, we would," he said recently to reporters.

The decision to parole Boudin enraged the law enforcement community in New York, especially in Rockland County where the robbery took place. Local groups have consistently opposed the release of Boudin and have worked tirelessly to make their feelings known to the parole board and the governor's office.

The Village of Nyack has erected monuments to the slain officers and holds an annual ceremony in their memory. Officer Waverly Brown, 45, and Sgt. Edward O'Grady Jr., 33, were killed on October 20, 1981 when they stopped a U Haul truck occupied by gang members who had murdered Brinks' guard Peter Paige just minutes before. When the officers tried to open the rear doors of the U Haul, the suspects, who were never all identified, came out shooting. Brown and O'Grady were instantly killed by a barrage of bullets from automatic weapons. Kathy Boudin, a passenger in the front seat of the truck, was apprehended as she ran from the scene of the carnage. She was already on the lam for over ten years as a result of an explosion in a Greenwich village townhouse-bomb factory that unintentionally killed three fellow terrorists.

In a letter published by the New York Post, Diane O'Grady, widow of Sgt. Ed O'Grady and mother to their three children raised without a father, addressed the parole of Boudin. "I do not believe that there is a shred of guilt, shame or remorse felt by inmate Boudin," she wrote. "To see and hear of the celebrating by Boudin and her supporters was hurtful and indecent." Mrs. O'Grady also responded to Boudin's request for a face to face apology. "I want to set the record straight and leave no room for doubt," she wrote, "I will never meet with inmate Boudin or her son. I would never dishonor my husband's memory with such a meeting. Nor do I have any desire to help Boudin ease her conscience or to give her a better public image for her next book."

South Nyack-Grandview Police Chief Alan Colsey, who arrested three of the suspects as they fled from the scene of the murders, described his feelings in a recent interview. "I was shocked beyond words by the unfathomable decision of the parole board to grant Boudin her parole," he said. The record of the violent nature of the crimes, the savage execution of the three officers, the complicity of the defendant in decades of criminal actitivity...This case is about sons and husbands and fathers, killed before their time, and the lifetime of sorrow each family member has been sentenced to endure.."

But one thing is sure: Kathy Boudin, now 60 years old, will walk out of Bedford Prison a free woman. Her debt to society for her actions on August 20, 1981 will have been paid. She will start a new life, much to the dismay of some people. There have been published reports that Manhattan's St. Luke's Hospital has already offered her a job to work with AIDS patients. Undoubtedly, her image will appear on television talk shows, media events and the inevitable book deal may soon follow. New York's "Son of Sam" law, which prevents those convicted of crimes to profit from them in movie or book contracts will apply to Kathy Boudin, but other criminals have gotten around the law. It remains to be seen if Boudin has such ambitions.

In the meantime, her family and supporters are ecstatic. "Right now, she's hysterically happy," attorney Weinglass said to reporters recently. "It's a pretty overwhelmingly joyous moment," Chesa Boudin told the Associated Press from his home in Chicago. But in Nyack, where the blood of murdered cops once flowed through village streets, there was a different reaction.

It's nothing to celebrate," Diane O'Grady wrote to the Daily News recently, "Nine children are still without fathers."

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