NEW YORK (AP) — A former Weather Underground radical who was denied parole after New York's governor commuted her sentence says the decision was "communally painful" for fellow prisoners who had "connected their sense of hope" to her.
"People here want to believe that ... what we do wrong matters, and that what we do right matters," Judith Clark said this week in an interview with The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/2qrVaRn ) at the maximum security Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. "They had connected their sense of hope to me."
Clark drove the getaway vehicle during a 1981 armored car robbery that led to the deaths of Peter Paige, a Brink's guard; and Sgt. Edward O'Grady and Officer Waverly Brown of the suburban Nyack Police Department.
About 10,000 people had signed a petition urging that parole be denied for Clark, who had told the court in 1983 that, "Revolutionary violence is necessary."
"I thought of myself as a symbol of revolutionary fervor and commitment," she said this week. "I didn't think about my child. I didn't think about the families sitting in that courtroom. Because it was all about symbols, and not people."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who met her in prison before making his December commutation decision, said Clark had made "exceptional strides in self-development."
She also was visited twice by Steven McDonald, the late New York Police Department officer who devoted his life to peace after forgiving the teenage gunman who paralyzed him in 1986.
The parole board commended Clark's accomplishments behind bars, but declared in April that she is "still a symbol of violent and terroristic crime."
Clark has been a chaplain's assistant; an educator for prisoners with AIDS; a leader of prenatal and newborn classes; and a trainer of dogs used by veterans and law enforcement.
"... I try to reckon with the fact that I am responsible for those people dying," Clark said. "I am someone who once believed in violence and now believes in respecting human life."
Information from: The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com