Cuomo Grants Clemency to Weather Underground Member Serving Time for Murder

San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin lobbied governor on behalf of father, David Gilbert

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
August 24, 2021

As one of his last acts before resigning from office on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) granted clemency to five murderers, including a former member of the Weather Underground who is the father of San Francisco’s district attorney, Chesa Boudin.

David Gilbert is serving a 75-year sentence for second-degree murder for his role in the 1981 robbery of a Brinks security truck in Nyack, N.Y. Two police officers and a security guard were killed during the heist, which Weather Underground members carried out along with members of the Black Liberation Army. Gilbert was driving a getaway car with his partner, Kathy Boudin. Cuomo’s grant of clemency will allow Gilbert to appear before the state parole board prior to his potential release from jail. Chesa Boudin lobbied Cuomo last year to grant clemency to his father, saying he hoped the governor "will show courage and mercy."

Boudin said on Monday that his "heart is bursting" from Cuomo’s decision. Boudin is part of a wave of left-wing prosecutors who swept into local office in recent years promising criminal justice reform. He has come under fire for releasing inmates and deferring prosecution for a variety of lower-level crimes. His critics have blamed the policies for a crime surge in the Bay Area.

Cuomo’s grant of clemency, the press release of which was removed within hours, drew immediate backlash, with one New York state assemblyman saying that Cuomo had betrayed law enforcement officers.

"Only a sociopath, such as Andrew Cuomo, would think that David Gilbert, a man who participated in a heinous attack on law-abiding citizens and law enforcement alike, deserves to be eligible for a pardon," said Assemblyman Mike Lawler, a Republican whose district includes Nyack.

Cuomo, who resigned following allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances to nearly a dozen women, said that Gilbert has "made significant contributions" to AIDS education programs while in prison.

Gilbert, 76, was an early member of the Weather Underground, which formed in 1969 to protest the Vietnam War and support the Black Power movement. The left-wing terror group orchestrated a series of bombings in the 1970s. The group was allegedly behind the 1970 firebombing of the home of a New York Supreme Court justice who was set to preside over a trial of members of the Black Panthers. Three Weather Underground members died later that year while making bombs that they hoped to detonate at a social event held at Fort Dix, an Army base in New Jersey.

Kathy Boudin was helping make the bombs but escaped unharmed after the explosion. She was paroled in 2003 and is currently co-director of the Center for Justice at Columbia University.

Chesa Boudin was 14 months old when his parents were arrested over the Brinks robbery. He was raised by Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground founder who worked closely with Barack Obama. After graduating from Yale University, Boudin served as a translator for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. He worked as a public defender before his election to San Francisco district attorney.