It seems that former Governor Andrew Cuomo has made it a habit to pardon Rockland’s most notorious criminals. During his final hours in office, Cuomo commuted the sentence of six incarcerated New Yorkers, among them 76-year-old David Gilbert, the man who drove the getaway vehicle during the infamous Brinks robbery of 1981. Cuomo’s decision means that Gilbert is now eligible for parole.
Gilbert and his fellow members of the Weather Underground, a domestic terrorist cell that plotted against the U.S. Government, were convicted after robbing an armored truck and stealing $1.6 million in an attack and failed getaway that killed three people and wounded three more. The incident is remembered as one of the most shocking and violent crimes to ever occur in Rockland.
County Sheriff Louis Falco, Nyack Mayor Don Hammond, State Representatives Mike Lawler and Ken Zebrowski, and Constance Frazier and Sergeant John Hanchar, relatives of the two police officers killed during the Weather Underground’s failed escape attempt, gathered on Tuesday to condemn the former governor’s decision and urge Rocklanders to write the parole board and demand that Gilbert remain imprisoned.
Standing at the memorial on Route 59 in Nyack, which marks the spot of the violent showdown between county police and the domestic terror cell, and flanked by more than a dozen uniformed officers, Sheriff Falco did not mince words.
“The disgraceful decision last evening by Andrew Cuomo to issue a last-minute commutation to David Gilbert, a self-avowed domestic terrorist who was convicted of three murders in the 1981 killings of Nyack Police Sergeant Edward J. O’Grady, PO Waverly Brown, and Brink’s Guard Peter Paige is reprehensible,” Falco stated.
The sheriff’s condemnation was only the beginning of a passionate diatribe from an outraged community.
“Andrew Cuomo has once again debased himself and the Office of the Governor of the State of New York,” said Deputy County Executive Jose Guillermo Rosa, sharing a statement written by Executive Ed Day. “As if victimizing 11 women, including members of his own staff, was not despicable enough, his commutation of the 75-years-to-life sentence of David Gilbert is a further assault on the people of Rockland and New York State.”
“This is a very very sad day for Rockland County, I never thought this would have happened,” said Constance Frazier, Waverly Brown’s cousin. “O’Grady, Brown and Paige will never come back, the five people that were responsible for their deaths it seems summarily that they were sentenced, and then they received clemency and are allowed to walk, I think that is so grossly unfair,” said Frazier, the county’s Commissioner of Human Rights.
Fraizer and her mother, a registered nurse, happened to be in the vicinity of the shooting that day. Her mother unsuccessfully attempted to administer treatment to the wounded officers, including her nephew Waverly Brown.
Sergeant John Hanchar, the nephew of Sergeant Edward O’Grady, also denounced the former governor’s decision and stated that he has attempted to contact Cuomo on multiple occasions and received no response. Sergeant Hanchar accused the governor of disrespecting the families of victims with his controversial decision.
“We moved on, we are not bitter people, but what’s fair is fair. This man was sentenced by a jury of his peers to life in jail,” said Hanchar.
Gilbert, who chose to represent himself in court, received a 75-year sentence for his participation in the robbery, and has expressed, “deep remorse for his role in the crime,” according to a statement from Steve Zeidman, a CUNY law school professor who spoke with the Times Union and has been representing Gilbert since 2019.
Cuomo and his handpicked parole board have previously granted clemency to Judith Clark, another member of the Weather Underground and accomplice in the robbery, as well as Robert McCain and Richard LaBarbera, the men responsible for the 1980 rape and murder of Pearl River teenager Paula Bohovesky. In addition to Gilbert, Cuomo’s last minute leniency was extended to Ulysses Boyd, Robert Ehrenberg, Paul Clark, Lawrence Penn, and Greg Mingo. All of those pardoned, excluding Mingo, were convicted of murder.