Journal News Opinion
January 6, 2008
Judith Clark got what she deserved for her role in the 1981 Nanuet
You can't say it any more plainly than that.
Clark was a getaway driver for the team of revolutionaries who gunned
down armored car guards outside the Nanuet National Bank branch at
the rear of the Nanuet Mall.
When the shooting there ended, Brinks guard Peter Paige was dead and
two of his colleagues were wounded.
One of them would lose the use of his arm as a result of his wounds,
but go on working for Brinks. In 1993, he would be in the World Trade
Center on the day of a terror bombing, but escape. On Sept. 11, 2001,
Joseph Trombino was still working for Brinks and waiting for other
guards making a stop in one of the Twin Towers.
He was killed in the collapse after jetliners were crashed into the
towers - his third brush with terrorists.
The crew that shot Peter Paige was very much a terrorist group, made
up of members of the Weather Underground, partnered with black revolutionaries.
As that October afternoon unfolded, the group headed east from Nanuet
along Route 59 and traded vehicles at the rear of an old Korvette's
A short time later, several cars and a U-Haul truck continued east
through West Nyack to the foot of Mountainview Avenue. The plan was
to turn there to enter the Thruway and escape across the Tappan Zee Bridge.
By then, police agencies across Rockland had been alerted to watch
for the U-Haul truck, based on a call from a young woman who saw men
with weapons around the truck at Korvette's.
Nyack police had set up a roadblock at the Thruway entrance and saw
the truck waiting to turn.
There was a conversation with those in the truck's cab. More than 25
years later, there's still a difference of opinion over whether
Weather Underground fugitive Kathy Boudin, who was riding up front,
said something to make the police believe the passengers were
innocently moving their belongings.
When the door opened, automatic gunfire cut down Nyack Sgt. Edward
O'Grady and Patrolman Waverly Brown, who would die of their wounds.
Boudin took off on foot and was captured running on the Thruway.
Others took off in cars, one of which was driven by Judith Clark. One
car managed to turn south onto Broadway and disappear through Nyack,
but another crashed into a wall next to what was then the home of
actress Helen Hayes.
Clark and two others, Sam Brown and David Gilbert, were arrested at the spot.
Arraignments late that night in Nyack Justice Court started a
judicial process that's still unfolding.
Over several years, Boudin would accept a plea bargain. Clark,
Gilbert and Kawasi Balagoon, also known as Donald Weems, were
convicted of three counts of murder and additional charges in a 1983
trial in Goshen. In the end, about a dozen went to prison on either
murder or conspiracy charges.
When Kathy Boudin was paroled in 2003, she wasn't the first to get
out of prison.
In 1999, Silvia Baraldini, a conspirator sentenced to 43 years, was
turned over to the Italian government. Although she was to be held
until 2008, she was freed in 2001 because she had cancer. In the
closing days of his presidency, Bill Clinton granted clemency to
Weather Underground members Susan Rosenberg and Linda Sue Evans, who
were linked to Brinks participants.
Families of Brinks victims, who mobilized to fight Boudin's parole,
never expected to be confronted by the possibility that Clark might
one day leave prison. She had been sentenced to a minimum of 75 years
and wouldn't even be eligible for parole until 2056.
But Clark started fighting her conviction on the grounds that she had
been denied her constitutional rights.
Quite the contrary. She and the others charged with murder were
granted a change of venue, shifting their trial from Rockland.
And when she asked - make that demanded - to defend herself, she was
allowed to do so.
And when the trial was under way, she claimed to be a freedom fighter
and denied the court's authority, even refusing to attend the trial at times.
Then, more than two decades later, she tried to wrap herself in the
She petitioned for a new trial, but was turned down by veteran
Rockland Judge Kenneth Resnick and a state appellate court in 2004.
In September 2006, less than a month before the 25th anniversary of
the day Rockland had its heart ripped out by violence, Clark got a
deal better than parole.
U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin tossed out her convictions
and granted a new trial, saying the court should have appointed a
lawyer for her, even over her protests.
But federal appeals judges last week said Clark should have been
turned away by the lower court, that she had missed her opportunity
to appeal. Rockland prosecutors had failed in briefs for Scheindlin
to argue that the statute of limitations had run out. When former
District Attorney Michael Bongiorno's staff realized the error and
tried to amend the court papers, Scheindlin rejected them.
The error didn't keep the appeals court from reversing Scheindlin and
ordering that Clark continue serving her 75 years-to-life sentence.
The mistake by the District Attorney's Office became an issue in the
re-election bid by Bongiorno, who personally argued the appeal of the
Scheindlin decision before the federal panel in February. There's
little doubt it was a factor in Thomas Zugibe's victory, by a margin
of just 1,509 votes out of 64,795 cast.
There's an outside shot that Clark could seek an appeal to the
Supreme Court, but there doesn't seem to be enough new ground for the
justices to entertain hearing her try to embrace a justice system she
rejected so long ago.
Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs was emphatic in rejecting Clark's arguments
that she was denied her rights.
"If Clark was without certain protections guaranteed by the
Constitution, that was because she knowingly and intelligently
exercised her constitutional right to make those choices."
Reach Bob Baird at email@example.com or 845-578-2463. His column
appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.