BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
An enraged Orangetown Town Board Tuesday unanimously condemned New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo for commuting the life prison sentence of convicted Brinks armored car robber Judith Clark, and demanded that her original sentence of 75 years to life be re-imposed and served in full.
The resolution drew strong support from politicians from both major political parties, as well as from dozens of police officers and their families in the audience during the board’s annual re-organization meeting at Town Hall in Orangeburg.
Clark, a New York City resident at the time, was a member of the radical Weather Underground terrorist organization. In 1981 Clark and her confederates in the Weather Underground robbed a Brinks armored car at the Nanuet Mall, stealing millions of dollars of bank deposits and murdering the Brinks driver, Peter Paige, as well as Nyack Police officers Sgt. Edward O’Grady and Patrolman Waverly Brown in a subsequent gun fight on Mountainview Avenue.
Incarcerated for 35 years now, she is considered by state officials to be a “model” prisoner at the state’s women’s prison in northern Westchester, where she earned a college degree and counsels other female inmates on self-improvement and rehabilitation. Gov. Cuomo sent shock waves through the legal and law enforcement communities last week when he recommended that her life sentence be reduced to the 35 years already served, and that she be immediately commuted to freedom.
Orangetown officials were still seething during Tuesday’s re-organization meeting, saying they couldn’t believe the governor would so ignore community wishes and release a convicted murderer based solely on her “good behavior.”
In a two-page resolution which was adopted unanimously by the five member council, the board blasted Cuomo for committing an “inexcusable travesty” in commuting her sentence from 75 years to live down to only 35 years, making her eligible for parole later this month. “Judith Clark remains the domestic terrorist who actively participated in the killing of three heroic individuals…while calling herself a freedom fighter,” the document states, adding that Cuomo, as the elected head of government in New York State “needs to be respectful to community sensitivities such as the impact of the Brinks robbery and Judith Clark had on the victims families and the Orangetown community as a whole…”
“The members of the Town Board believe that they have a responsibility to honor the memories and heroic actions of Nyack Police Department Sgt. Edward O’Grady, Police Officer Waverly Brown and Brinks security guard Peter Page, as well as a responsibility to their families to insure that Judith Clark remains behind bars for the remainder of her life” the resolution continues.
The resolution then concludes by stating that the five-member council unanimously “condemns Governor Cuomo for his irresponsible and insensitive decision to commute Judith Clark’s sentence and the board requests that Governor Cuomo offer a written apology to the victims’ families and the Orangetown community.
The board “further… opposes the release of Judith Clark at any and all future parole hearings,” and will send copies of the two-page document to the governor, the parole board, the families of the victims and any other state agencies which may be involved in her long-term future.
The board consists of three Republicans and two Democrats, but politics appeared to hold no sway on the frequently squabbling council members in this matter. Supervisor Andy Stewart, in announcing his own strong support for the resolution.
Nyack Major Jen White told the Rockland County Times, “I feel tremendous compassion for the family members of those men lost and others in our small village who were devastated by that terrible day. I know them, they are good people who sacrificed so much for our community.
“This has been a shock, they had no idea this was going to happen nor were they given the opportunity to share their feelings about this decision with the Governor. Many learned this painful news on social media or from other news sources. As a community we must support them in any way we can and we owe them more caring and compassion than that.”
In other action at Tuesday’s annual re-organization meeting, the Town Board unanimously accepted the retirement resignation of Orangetown Police Lieutenant Thomas F. Schutz and the promotions of two other officers to fill vacancies created by the retirement. Sergeant David J. Mellin was promoted to lieutenant to take Schutz’s place, and Detective Daniel J. Costello was promoted to sergeant to take Mellin’s slot.
The families of all three men were present in the packed auditorium for the promotion ceremonies, and actively took part by holding the bible and pinning the new rank on their husband’s lapel.
Police Chief Kevin Nulty praised each of the three men, noting that Schutz joined the Orangetown force at age 39, after having a successful career as a musician, guitar player and singer with his own band, an activity he continued in his spare time.
Mellin began working for the department in 1990 and has had a varied career in several units of the OPD. Costello has also had a varied police background, from starting at the New York City Housing Authority PD in 1988, switching to the OPD in 1991 and serving since then in virtually every position the department has.
Costello also comes from a police family, with his father and brother both serving on the NYPD.
A close family friend of both Costello and his father was a rising officer named James “Jimmy” O’Neil, who last year was promoted by Mayor William DeBlasio to the position of police commissioner of the entire NYC Police Department.