Faith leaders urge clemency for David Gilbert, father of S.F. DA Boudin

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo should take the correct and humane step by releasing Chesa Boudin’s father from prison after nearly 40 years.

David Gilbert murdered no one. He was an accomplice to a murder. Now 76, it serves no useful purpose to continue his incarceration.

Andrew Cuomo will hear the outcry from law enforcement and the victims family.  The incumbent’s goal is re-election in 2022 which may preclude him taking a humanitarian action.

I hope I am wrong.

San Francisco Chronicle 11.16.2020

A coalition of faith leaders is urging New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to grant clemency to David Gilbert — the father of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin — who is serving a 75-year-to-life sentence for his participation in the fatal robbery of a Brink’s armored truck in 1981.

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A young Chesa Boudin and his dad David Gilbert

The letter, signed by 45 inter-faith leaders and activists, asked Cuomo to show mercy to the 76-year-old Gilbert, both because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because they said Gilbert has taken responsibility for his role in the robbery. Among those who signed the letter are the Rev. Dr. Bernice King, daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ela Gandhi, the granddaugther of Mohandas Gandhi.

“However long these sentences are, they were not intended to be a death penalty,” the letter to Cuomo said. “We see daily that elders in prison, especially those with compromised immune systems and underlying heath concerns, are in grave danger and many have died. For us, like you and your father before you, opposition to the death penalty is a religious and moral principle.”

Gilbert, along with Chesa Boudin’s mother Kathy Boudin, were members of the radical leftist organization Weather Underground. On Oct. 20, 1981, they joined members of the Black Liberation Army in the botched robbery of a Brink’s armored truck in New York. Other members of the group shot and killed a Brink’s guard, Peter Paige, before killing two Nyack police officers, Waverly Brown and Edward O’Grady. Chesa Boudin was 14 months old at the time.

Gilbert and Kathy Boudin did not pull the trigger; both were unarmed getaway drivers. They were charged and convicted under New York’s felony murder law, which says that all participants in a felony that leads to a death can be charged with murder, even if they were not directly responsible for the killings. Kathy Boudin was paroled in 2003. Gilbert continues to serve his sentence at New York’s Shawangunk Correctional Facility.

In an interview with The Chronicle on Monday, Boudin said he was told there have been more than 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Shawangunk.

“I haven’t seen my father since December of last year,” Boudin said. “It’s one of the longest times in my lifetime — if not the longest — I’ve gone without visiting him, and I wish I could go see him.”

Boudin said he has not spoken with Cuomo about the possibility of granting clemency to his father, and that his involvement in his father’s clemency campaign is “extremely limited.”

Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday, nor did Brink’s or the mayor of Nyack, the town where the two slain police officers worked. Boudin said he would not presume to guess how the families of those who died would feel about the possibility of his father’s release. Boudin has had “limited contact” with some of the families, while his father has reached out to them through clergy.

“My father is serving a 75-year sentence for a case in which he was unarmed and he did not personally or directly hurt anyone,” Boudin said. “No other country in the world with a civilized legal system would allow somebody who’s unarmed to serve a 75-year sentence.”


David Gilbert, Chesa Boudin and Kathy Boudin

The letter said Gilbert has taken responsibility for his role in the robbery and mentored younger people incarcerated with him.

“We are confident that David Gilbert’s release presents no threat to public safety,” the letter said. “To the contrary, his release would help peacefully resolve an era of tragic conflict.”