NEW YORK (AP) — Hours before leaving office, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday granted clemency to six people, including the driver in a fatal 1981 armored truck robbery whose release was championed by his son, San Francisco’s top prosecutor.
David Gilbert, 76, is serving a life sentence for his role in the $1.6 million theft that left a guard and two police officers dead. Through Cuomo’s action, he will be referred to the state parole board for potential release, the governor’s office said.
A message seeking comment was left with Gilbert’s son, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
Steve Zeidman, the lawyer and law professor who spearheaded Gilbert’s clemency campaign, said he was overjoyed for Gilbert and his family.
“David has an opportunity to make his case to the board, an opportunity to live outside the prison walls,” said Zeidman, co-director of the Defenders Clinic at the City University of New York’s Law School.
Four men whose prison sentences were commuted Monday by Cuomo were also part of the clinic, Zeidman said. Together, those men have served 143 years behind bars on murder convictions.
Also Monday, Cuomo pardoned Lawrence Penn, a private equity fund manager who served two years for falsifying business records in connection with allegations he stole millions of dollars from investors.
Last week, Cuomo granted clemency to 10 people, including Jon-Adrian Velazquez, whose unsuccessful campaign for exoneration in the 1998 killing of a retired New York City police officer was championed by actor Martin Sheen.
Gilbert’s fight for freedom gained attention as Boudin, who was just 14 months old when he went to prison, campaigned last year for San Francisco District Attorney.
Boudin ran a progressive campaign in which he said visiting his parents Kathy Boudin and Gilbert in prison showed him the criminal justice system was broken.
In a news release, Cuomo’s office said that while locked up, Gilbert has made significant contributions to AIDS education and prevention programs, has worked as a tutor, law library clerk, paralegal assistant, teacher’s aide and aide in various prison programs.
Gilbert is among the last surviving people still imprisoned in the bungled 1981 Brink’s robbery north of New York City, often seen as a last gasp of ’60s radicalism. Under his sentence, he wouldn’t have been eligible for parole until 2056.
Brink’s guard Peter Paige and Sgt. Edward O’Grady and Officer Waverly Brown of the Nyack Police Department were killed in the holdup and ensuing shootout at a nearby roadblock.
Gilbert, an unarmed getaway driver, was charged with robbery and murder since people were killed during the crime. He and two co-defendants cast themselves as freedom fighters and deemed their trial illegitimate. At one court session, Gilbert and co-defendant Judith Clark raised their fists and shouted “Free the land!”
Clark was granted parole in 2019, three years after Cuomo commuted her sentence, noting her “exceptional strides in self development.”