The good news: The truth about Kathy Boudin's decades-long history of violent revolutionary history finally is emerging, thanks to a new book by her one-time college classmate and friend that exposes the lies she and her supporters have long been telling.
The bad news: Susan Braudy's "Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristrocracy of the Left" (Knopf) was published too late to keep Kathy Boudin behind bars for her role in the 1981 Brinks heist in Nyack, in which her Black Liberation Army comrades murdered three law-enforcement officers.
Ironically, this book originated at the request of Boudin's late mother, Jean, who thought Braudy would be perfect to write a book telling how her overly idealistic daughter fell in with the wrong people and ended up paying a too-high price in prison.
Braudy told Kathy Boudin's story all right (with her mother as a principal source) - but it wasn't the propaganda the family had envisioned. So the pro-Boudin Left has already begun its counter-attack. Radical lawyer Leonard Weinglass has charged that the author is "a somewhat frustrated and repressed person who has never been able to outgrow her awe of Kathy" and "her sense of angst."
You can see why Boudin's fan club desperately wants to discredit "Family Circle." Much of the book is a psychohistory that particularly demonizes Boudin's father, the noted radical lawyer Leonard Boudin. Braudy's conclusion, as she tells Kathy herself, is: "You felt you had to risk your life over and over again to compete with Leonard to get his attention."
Not everyone will care about all this family angst and trauma, or how Kathy Boudin increasingly moved to more radical - and more violent - political movements.
But the core of the story begins in 1970, when Kathy managed to escape from the explosion of a Greenwich Village townhouse that the Revolutionary Underground was using as a bomb factory.
Boudin has long insisted she just happened to be there at the time. But Braudy shows that, in fact, Kathy was fully involved in the bomb-making plot. Indeed, she undermines Kathy's disingenuous claim to the parole board that "I was never involved in violence directly" during her subsequent 11 years on the lam.
To hear Boudin tell it, she was always simply at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. Actually, writes Braudy, Boudin was personally involved in at least a dozen bombings across the country - including at the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol and NYPD headquarters - before the Brinks job. She also rented cars both for bank robberies and for the prison escape of cop-killer Joanne Chesimard.
So addicted was Boudin to the revolutionary underground life, writes Braudy, that she chose to remain a fugitive, even after prosecutors dropped two indictments against her in 1974 and "the FBI had little interest" in finding her. She also deserted her young son in order to remain a part of "the cause."
Braudy's most important revelation, however, is showing how Boudin has consistently lied about her role in the Brinks heist - which was undertaken not, as claimed, for political reasons but because BLA leader Doc Shakur needed money to pay his mortgage and buy cocaine.
Those lies continued before the state parole board. Of her life in the underground, Boudin claimed: "My work was not doing violent work, but organizing conferences and educating people." Of the Brinks robber-killers, she said, "I had no idea who the people were."
Both demonstrable lies.
As for Boudin's supposed remorse over the three deaths, its shallowness is best revealed in one telling incident.
Braudy writes that Kathy asked her to come to the prison in 1998 to describe a memorial service she'd recently attended for the Brinks victims. There, Braudy described the service, adding that Gregory Brown attends a similar memorial every year.
When Boudin didn't recognize the name, Braudy explained, "[He's] Waverly Brown's son." To which Boudin replied, with evident surprise, "Really - I never knew the guy had a son."
Writes Braudy: "Kathy wrote poignant poems about her incarceration. She lectured other prisoners about making amends to crime victims, but in the 20 years since the Brinks robbery she had not learned that Waverly Brown, the young black policemen slain in Nyack by the BLA moments after she'd convinced him to put away a gun, had had a teenage son."
That revelation, so at odds with the tale of contrition and penitence carefully crafted by her celebrity and radical supporters, only underscores just what a horrible perversion of justice it was to set Kathy Boudin free.