A former Weather Underground radical who drove a getaway car in a bungled 1981 Brinks armored-car robbery that left three people dead was denied parole on Friday despite the fact Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised her behavior as a prisoner when he commuted her sentence last year.
Judith Clark has served 35 years of a 75-years-to-life sentence for the suburban New York heist, which led to the deaths of two police officers and a security guard. She won't be eligible for parole again until April 2019.
Cuomo, a Democrat, commuted Clark's sentence in December to make her eligible for parole, saying she had become a repentant, "impressive" and community-spirited prisoner. Before the commutation, Clark, who's 67, would not have been eligible for parole consideration until she was 106.
In announcing the commutation last year, Cuomo's office noted that Clark "received one of the longest sentences of her six co-defendants, the majority of whom are either deceased or no longer in custody" and "received the same sentence as one of the known shooters."
The Weather Underground was a 1960s group of increasingly violent anti-war activists. Clark called herself a freedom fighter, insisted on representing herself at trial 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. Behind bars, she has helped found an HIV/AIDS education program and done other charitable work.
But law enforcement groups opposed Clark's release, and Republican state senators said nearly 10,000 people signed a petition urging the state Board of Parole to keep her locked up.
Clark's lawyer Steve Zeidman said the decision to deny her parole ignores her record of achievement and transformation behind bars, which included earning a master's degree, training 11 dogs for service and working with incarcerated mothers and their children. He said more than 1,000 people have written letters calling for her release.
The three-member parole board, in explaining its unanimous decision to deny release, said it weighed public support and opposition and Clark's good prison record. It said it was persuaded against releasing Clark by statements from officials, survivors and affected parties.
Clark's daughter said the decision sent a discouraging message to inmates who worked hard to transform their lives so they could return to their families.
"My mother did not kill anyone, and it's hard for me to understand who is served by making her die in prison," Harriet Clark said.
Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever said Clark deserved the opportunity to make her case for parole and the commutation gave that to her. She said the governor respects the parole board's decision.
The governor's decision to commute Clark's sentence had outraged Michael Paige, whose father, Brinks security guard Peter Paige, was killed in the $1.6 million holdup. Less than an hour after Paige's killing, two Nyack police officers, Waverly Brown and Sgt. Edward O'Grady, stopped a truck at a roadside checkpoint and were killed in an ambush.
Michael Paige said 35 years wasn't enough time in prison for Clark.
"No," he said in December. "It's never enough time."