[sixties-l] 60's Radical Seeks Parole for an 80's Crime

From: radtimes (resist@best.com)
Date: Mon Aug 27 2001 - 15:07:52 EDT

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    Lines Are Drawn as 60's Radical Seeks Parole for an 80's Crime



    Two decades after her name made headlines, Kathy Boudin's crime
    still reverberates ^ as part of a killing that devastated a
    Rockland County neighborhood, and as a reminder of how powerful the
    fault lines of the 1960's remain.

      On Wednesday, Ms. Boudin is scheduled to have a parole hearing for
    the first time since the day in October 1981 when, as a former
    member of the radical 1960's group the Weather Underground, she
    took part in an armed robbery that left a security guard and two
    police officers dead.

      Ms. Boudin, in an interview last Tuesday at Bedford Hills
    Correctional Facility in Westchester County, did not minimize her
    crime or guilt, but she and her supporters say her case should be
    judged, at least in part, on her good works in prison.

      Still, many of her supporters conceded that separating her
    personal journey of repentance from the bitter memories of the
    killings and the radical politics that inspired them may be too
    much to ask.

      "This case will never shed its symbolic loading," said Todd
    Gitlin, author of the 1987 book "The 60's: Years of Hope, Days of
    Rage," who knew Ms. Boudin slightly in the decade's early years.
    "It would take tremendous self-discipline on the parole board's
    part to ignore the political aura."

      On October 20, 1981, six armed gunmen from a radical group called
    the Black Liberation Army, a spinoff of the Black Panthers, stole
    $1.6 million in cash from a Brink's truck in Nanuet, N.Y., killing
    a guard. They transferred the money to a waiting U-Haul. Ms.
    Boudin, whose own group had disbanded some years earlier, was
    sitting in the cab. As the truck approached the New York State
    Thruway, the police stopped it, and Ms. Boudin got out and
    surrendered. The gunmen then burst out of the truck and opened
    fire, killing the two police officers before they were captured.

      Today, her supporters say, Ms. Boudin is a different woman. During
    her 20 years in prison she has helped to create several innovative
    programs for AIDS victims, incarcerated mothers and inmates seeking
    to take college courses. Some of those programs are now national

      In part because of her work in prison, she has hundreds of
    supporters, including several rabbis, ministers and priests, and a
    local group that has bought advertisements in a Rockland newspaper
    urging that she be released. They say that Ms. Boudin, who was not
    armed and was not at the scene of the robbery, has paid her debt to

      Ms. Boudin said: "I went out that day with a lot of denial. I
    didn't think anything would happen; in my mind, I was going back to
    pick up my child at the baby sitter's."

      She said that at the time of the robbery and shootout in Nanuet,
    her devotion to the political ideals that led her into the antiwar
    movement of the 1960's had been warped by over a decade of
    isolation. In 1970 she had gone underground, taking an assumed name
    after surviving an explosion in a Greenwich Village town house
    where other members of the Weather Underground had been making

      "I was committed to a belief in changing the system as a way of
    helping people," she recalled. "But my view of how to do that was
    so divorced from people and so abstract ^ I wasn't dealing with
    people on a day-to-day level."

      She said several times that she felt a deep sense of regret and
    shame for having participated in the robbery. And she said she had
    long hoped to have a chance to apologize directly to the victims'

      But those family members say that Ms. Boudin's apology ^ and the
    time she has served ^ are not enough. "No matter what her role was,
    she was part of a planned terrorist attack," said Michael Paige,
    whose father, Peter Paige, a Brink's guard, was killed in the
    robbery. "My family and the other families suffer every day for

      Rockland police and many of the victims' relatives have organized
    a campaign to persuade the parole board that she should never be
    released. Last month, off-duty police officers fanned out in
    supermarkets and malls in the county to get signatures on petitions
    opposing her parole, and State Senator Thomas P. Morahan offered
    his Web site for an e-mail petition. On July 13, the Rockland
    County executive, C. Scott Vanderhoef, and Sheriff James F. Kralik
    spoke at a rally attended by hundreds of police officers, relatives
    of the victims, and others opposed to her release. Also, Gov.
    George E. Pataki wrote to the relatives to express his opposition.

      But at least one person who was affected by the crime disagrees
    with the opposition to parole.

      On the day of the crime, Norma Hill watched in horror from her car
    as six gunmen burst from the back of the U-Haul and opened fire.
    One then ran up to her stopped car, held his gun to her head and
    yanked her from the seat. Ms. Hill, who said she was emotionally
    scarred by the event, became an important witness for the

      But years later, after her brother died of AIDS, she became a
    volunteer at the Bedford Hills prison, where many inmates had the
    disease. She did not know at first that Ms. Boudin was there. When
    they began working together, Ms. Boudin did not know Ms. Hill,
    having never seen her face at the trial. When Ms. Hill revealed
    herself, about seven years ago, they had a long and emotional
    conversation in which Ms. Boudin apologized for her role in the
    crime, Ms. Hill said.

      Eventually they became close friends, and now Ms. Hill goes to the
    prison several times a month, sometimes bringing her granddaughter.

      "Do we believe there can never be any change in a person?" Ms.
    Hill asked. "Kathy has led an exemplary life in prison. If I
    thought there was any possibility she would be a danger to society,
    I would not be saying this."

      Over the past two years, only about 5 percent of inmates convicted
    of second-degree murder in New York ^ like Ms. Boudin ^ have been
    paroled after their first hearing, said Thomas P. Grant, a
    spokesman for the State Division of Parole. The board has received
    more than 10,000 pieces of correspondence, including e-mail
    messages, about the case, with about 85 percent from people opposed
    to parole.

      Like many other supporters, Ms. Hill said opponents were spreading
    an exaggerated account of the crime, damaging Ms. Boudin's chances
    for early release. Ms. Boudin was convicted of first-degree robbery
    and second-degree murder in the death of Peter Paige, and was
    sentenced to 20 years to life behind bars. Her supporters point out
    that she was never charged in the deaths of the two police
    officers, who were killed after she stepped out of the U-Haul and

      But several Rockland police officials and some newspaper
    columnists have said that she deliberately helped murder the
    officers by persuading them to put away their guns.

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