Former activist Judy Clark granted parole after nearly 40 years in prison over armored truck robbery

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Sixty-nine year-old Judy Clark is granted parole after nearly 40 years in jail for her role as the getaway driver in a 1981 robbery of a Brink's armored truck. CNN's Jason Carroll reports.

Posted: Apr. 18, 2019 6:00 AM
Updated: Apr. 18, 2019 6:00 AM

Judy Clark, a former radical activist who has spent nearly 40 years in jail for her role in a 1981 robbery of a Brink's armored truck in suburban New York has been granted parole, according to her attorney.

"We are grateful that the Parole Board affirmed what everyone who has interacted with Judy already knows -- that she is a rehabilitated, remorseful woman who poses no threat to society," said Clark's attorney, Michael Cardozo.

The 69-year-old former radical activist was convicted of murder in the Nyack, New York, robbery that left a security guard and two police officers dead, according to court documents.

Clark participated in the crime with other activists, and described herself as a "single-minded fanatic ... at war with America" and "a blinded revolutionary," according to New York State Department of Corrections records.

Prosecutors criticized the parole board's decision and described Clark as a "cold-blooded cop killer" who chose to participate in "bank robbery, anarchy and murder."

"Because of her complete disregard for human life and the sheer brutality of the crime, parole should never have been granted for this convicted murderer," Kevin Gilleece, the acting Rockland County district attorney, said in a statement.

CNN has reached out to the New York State Department of Corrections for comment.

Why was she granted parole?

Clark was initially sentenced to 75 years to life in prison but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo commuted her sentence in 2016, opening the possibility for her to be paroled.

"She talked about her sorrow, her complicity and why she did it," Cuomo told reporters after personally interviewing Clark more than two years ago. "I found it very impressive overall."

Cuomo's office declined to comment Wednesday on Clark's case.

The panel granted Clark parole on Wednesday, saying their decision doesn't forgive her for her role in the robbery, according to a copy of the ruling shared with CNN by a source with the state's department of corrections with firsthand knowledge of the board's decision.

"You were wrong. Your behavior was criminal. Your callous disregard for the wellbeing of some, in favor of others, is a disgrace," the decision reads.

The ruling states there was "ample evidence of rehabilitation, remorse and transformation" in Clark's case and said her release would be "compatible with the welfare of the overall community."

The documents indicate that Clark's advanced age, the 38 years she has served in jail, her good institutional record and the numerous actions she has taken through the years played a factor in the decision.

Clark, who also is known as Judith, has trained service dogs used by law enforcement, taught prenatal care, created an AIDS counseling program and also became a chaplain.

One member of the three-member panel dissented, saying Clark's release would "deprecate the seriousness of the offenses and undermine respect for the law."

Clark is being held at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, New York. She could be released on May 15 or earlier, the ruling states, and she has been banned from communicating with the robbery victims without permission of a parole officer.

Clark had previously been denied parole after a board found that her release would be "incompatible with the welfare of society" and would "deprecate the seriousness of (her) crimes as to undermine respect for the law," according to department of corrections records.

The board also said Clark was still considered "a symbol of violent and terroristic crime."

Decision draws support and criticism

Clark's attorneys had submitted some 2,000 letters to the parole board from state and local leaders as well as residents saying they believe she has been rehabilitated and that she should be released.

Donna Lieberman, executive director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, expressed her organization's support for the board's decision.

"Our correctional system does not exist to punish people, and the fundamental premise of our parole system is to allow people to repair their lives," Lieberman said in a statement.

"Today, the parole board delivered an important message to the entire country, and showed that New York stands for justice and recognizes that those incarcerated should be given a chance to return to society."

The New York police union criticized the parole board and the governor.

"Welcome to the state of New York, where cop killers get to go free thanks to Gov. Cuomo's moronic and unethical parole board," said Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, in a statement.

The SBA is made up of approximately 13,000 active and retired sergeants of the NYPD, according to the organization.

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