Kathy Boudin helped kill three people on October 20, 1981, the consequences of an armored truck robbery in Nyack, New York. The robbery was a joint action of the May 19th Communist Organization and the Black Liberation Army, the money was needed to finance their criminal careers as communist revolutionaries. Although not armed herself, Boudin was in the cab of the U-Haul that served as a getaway vehicle; when police pulled the truck over, she failed to warn them about the six heavily-armed gunmen hiding in the back. They were caught off guard, and two police officers died from gunshot wounds. The third, a security guard, was shot to death at the scene of the crime. Boudin was charged with felony murder for her role in the killings; thanks to her skilled lawyers, she received a lesser sentence than her co-conspirators. While the rest of those captured were sentenced to seventy-five years to life on three counts of murder, Boudin plea-bargained her way into a twenty years to life sentence, on only one count of murder. This August, Boudin was granted parole by two of New York State’s parole board commissioners. She will be released from the Beford Hills Correctional Facility, located in New York’s Westchester County, by the end of September.
Boudin’s parole was controversial. Since she committed a crime to bring about political goals, she was, by definition, a domestic terrorist; in addition, she had only been in jail for twenty-two years, close to the minimum specified in her sentence. Her lawyers put together a ‘grassroots’ campaign of support for her parole, while Boudin delivered a near-flawless performance in her parole hearing; when the transcript of the hearing was released, it was evident that the two black parole commissioners had accepted Boudin’s claim to have acted out of a liberal desire to improve the situation of blacks. The families of the victims were justifiably angry at her parole; unlike her fellow criminals, who will die in jail, Boudin will spend the remainder of her life free.
FrontPage Magazine has obtained a copy of Boudin’s parole hearing transcript, and is reprinting portions of it here. The excerpts are often difficult reading. This is partially because they are verbal testimony, and partially because they are internally inconsistent. However, they are of great value – both as a primary source for leftist psychology and as an indictment of New York’s state parole board.
Excerpt 1: Boudin’s Explanation for Her Crimes
[Ed.: This excerpt immediately followed introductions and a report, read by Commissioner Manley, of Boudin’s crimes.]
Commissioner Manley: So, tell us in your own words how you got involved in this?
Boudin: It was very horrible to listen to that description of it.
Commissioner Manley: Yeah.
Boudin: It was horrible and it was a terrible crime, and when I sit here, there are things I want to say: that I feel ashamed that I was a part of the crime in which so much suffering happened and even if no suffering had happened it was illegal to even try to do something like that. I knew from the moment I was arrested or the night, the first night in jail, that although there was an idea that this robbery would be a help, to help the community, that my presence there was a lot of reflection of my own personal problem. And it was my weaknesses, not just problems, but my weaknesses, and that I rationalized it. I thought about it as – this is a way to deal with the problems of poverty, the cutbacks in the programs that were happening then, that it was a way to show power, but in reality I feel that I was there to prove my own – to prove to myself that I was somebody that was committed.
FrontPage commentary: Boudin here recants violence and illegal actions, and admits remorse – which is what any criminal looking to be released from jail would do in a parole hearing, remorseful or not. This is Boudin’s first opportunity to speak at length. She sets up two themes she’ll return to again and again – first, that her involvement in the crime was primarily due to her personal flaws, not radical ideology, and second, that the crime was a deluded way to achieve liberal goals, not revolutionary ones. In reality, Boudin supported a far more radical program than solving ‘the problems of poverty,’ and halting Reagan’s program cuts. All members of the domestic terrorist group called the Weather Underground were committed Marxist-Leninists who wanted not just liberal reform, but a complete, communist reshaping of society, with the concomitant revolution, violence, and death. Boudin, a member of the Weather Underground until its dissolution, would have supported the Weather Underground’s political program. It’s unlikely that her political beliefs would have changed while she remained a fugitive and kept in contact with other Weather Underground fugitives, like her lover and future husband David Gilbert.
As for Boudin’s alluded-to personal problems, her desire to ‘feel committed’ – these torturous psychological explanations are only necessary to explain her involvement in the crime if you believe her unlikely self-presentation as a liberal. Since Boudin, was a committed Marxist-Leninist who had belonged to a terrorist organization before and believed that revolutionary ends justified any means, there is no need to explain her involvement in the crime – her actions are consistent with her ideology.
The commissioners seem to have no comprehension of the Weather Underground and what its members stood for.
Excerpt 2: Boudin’s Adoption of Violence
Boudin: In the early ‘60s, mid-‘60’s after I left college, I became part of the civil rights movement and I moved to Cleveland, Ohio. And it was my first time living in conditions of poverty, and also, I had come from a family where I had assumed that whatever I did with my life in some way it was going to help society. It’s just how – it’s the values that you grow up believing. [Ed: Although not discussed in the parole hearing, Boudin’s father was a member of the Communist Party, USA and the schools she attended before college were run by Communists and their fellow travelers.]
I was going to be a doctor for a long time. My first 10 to 12 years, halfway through college I was going to be a doctor and as the civil rights movement started I felt like being a doctor seemed distant from really working with people to have equality. So I switched and I thought, well, hey, maybe I’ll do something like be a lawyer and help with the movement. That was happening. And then I ended up going to work with a community organizing project in Cleveland. Originally I was working with people that would come up from West Virginia, from the mines, when the mines closed. And then I started working with women that were on welfare, and part of what happened to me was I felt my own background had given me certain opportunities to have the kind of education and I felt that the people I was meeting had so many odds against them, it was everything from race to class to just expectations – I felt really, I felt guilty about it. And I felt I wanted to become part of the movement that would create more equality for people. And it became the main thing that I wanted to do.
But, as the years went on, as the ‘60’s went on, I was somebody who grew up with the assumption of peace, I guess, I believed that it was changing, things were changing and I didn’t believe the violence was right, I thought that it was wrong. And then as the violence got more, or more intense during the ‘60’s and people started g etting killed and assassinated, it threw me into a situation of confusion, I guess, is the best thing to say. I felt that peaceful protests seemed to be not working…
The people that were killed were not people that I knew that, well, one I knew better than the others, but at that point I chose to go underground, because I thought it was a sign of commitment to furthering the protests, I guess is the best way to say it.
Ed.: Boudin is lying again. 1968 she joined the most violent faction of SDS – the Weathermen who were committed to launching a race war in America (in exactly these words) and in 1969 went “underground” to start the war in earnest. What Boudin is referring to here is the famous “Townhouse explosion” of 1970 when three members of her Weatherman cell her comrades blew themselves up when a bomb they were making exploded. They were planning to blow up a dance at Fort Dix with the anti-personnel bomb. Boudin was in the Townhouse and fled and immediately returned to her terrorist comrades and activities. Her claim not to have known them well is laughable since Weathermen were under strict orders to have sex with each other as part of the revolutionary program.
And it also meant – it was to show I was really committed. I think the two things coincided, partly I was expressing my own feelings of, well, these people died and sacrificed their lives, and if I’m going to be something that should express my commitment, I should do something that really does that, so…
Commissioner Manley: And how does going underground do that?
Boudin: The way it did it for me was a way of saying I’m not going to be somebody that’s going to pursue a regular middle-class life. I’m not going to be somebody that’s – that was of a time when the issues of equality and the war in Vietnam are the main things that are happening. I don’t want to be a white person that was just going to say, okay, I’m going to take advantage of the privileges that I grew up with, which just to go to graduate school, I felt wasn’t enough, I felt that it wasn’t an adequate sign of commitment. And for me to show my commitment, become overwhelmingly poor, part of it, I think was that I had needs for myself, my own ego to say, I’m a great person, so I’m committed.
FrontPage commentary: Boudin had been a committed revolutionary for years when this event took place. Most of her fellow new leftists thought the Weathermen were lunatic ultra-leftists and said so. This was not about middle class guilt but demonic hatred of white people generally and Americans in particular.
Even taking her claims at face value they make no sense. While Boudin claimed she went ‘underground’ – that is, became a fugitive – because she wanted to show her commitment to ‘issues of equality’ and opposition to the Vietnam War, her actions don’t support this. The situation of women and blacks in America began to improve rapidly from the 1960s on, and the United States withdrew from Vietnam. Rightly or wrongly, American leftists claimed the ‘peaceful protests’ were responsible for both of these things. In other words, what Boudin claimed she wanted was being rapidly achieved without violence. Yet Boudin remained in a violent organization, a group responsible for a string of bombings. That’s because Boudin’s political program, which she shared with the rest of the Weather Underground, was far more radical than ‘issues of equality’. Her claim to have gone underground as a way of furthering the legal protests is just a way of hiding her then-commitment to revolutionary violence from the parole board.
Excerpt 3: Boudin Excites the Imagination of Commissioner Bouey
Boudin: At the end of the period [when the Weather Underground formally dissolved], it was like an end of a period of history, and there were a lot of political decisions and splits and people, it was like the conditions had changed that led it [the Weather Underground] to come into existence.
Commissioner Manley: Okay.
Boudin: Because the war was over and there wasn’t – it wasn’t the same kind of protest movement in this country after that. And so people –
Commissioner Bouey: And so at that point did you feel stronger or even or have even greater passion about what led you to get involved in this kind of movement to begin with or had they mellowed or minimized to a certain extent because of all the things that had taken place during that time where you were at –
Boudin: Yeah, and –
Commissioner Bouey: You were coming out, no?
FrontPage Commentary: Coming out? This was 1976. Jimmy Carter was in the White House along with a lot of staffers who were veterans of the anti-war movement. At this point Kathy decided to join the May 19th Communist Organization dedicated to violent revolution again. These are the comrades who forged an alliance with the Black Liberation Army, a gang of political criminals and assassins, who eventually held up the Brinks armored car.
Boudin: I want to say where I was at, I feel embarrassed to say that, but it felt, it’s the truth, that I was having panic attacks about the fact that I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life and who I was going to be and the issue of what was really happening in society that I was supposed to be caring about was actually not the main thing that I was – that was on my mind.
Commissioner Bouey: So, you decided to what then?
Boudin: I decided to stay living a life that was with a changed name and changed identity, because it made me feel that I was remaining committed.
FrontPageCommentary: Changed name and changed identity? Is that all? What about the fact, Kathy, that you were committed to a revolutionary gang that was heavily armed and used false identities in order to carry out violent and criminal acts.
Commissioner Bouey: So, you did that for how many years after ’75, ’76?
Boudin: I did that until I was arrested.
FrontPageCommentary: You mean for another five years.
Commissioner Bouey: Until you were actually arrested?
Comm. Bouey: So, as a matter of fact, you were living as a fugitive for that period of time.
Boudin: I was living that way. It’s just that I wasn’t being looked for very hard. And the only charge against me were demonstrations in Chicago, but it became my identity. I said to myself every day, I am an important person, because I am not just going to rejoin middle class society. And it was, I don’t know what to say, it was unreal. It was not – I wasn’t an important person. And I was doing nothing on a day to day level that actually related to the things that I really cared about.
FrontPage Commentary: Now we’re getting somewhere. All that stuff about insecurity and guilt is so much malarkey. Kathy was a revolutionary. An important person. A world historical figure no doubt. This confession of insufferable arrogance and self-righteousness is actually a dose of the truth.
Comm. Bouey: Or even more importantly that there were things that you could have done that –
Comm. Bouey: - to help the individuals that you say you were concerned about or to address some of the social ills that were in existence in this country during that time that would have been noble and would have fed, you know, your ego.
FrontPage Commentary: Don’t make us laugh.
Comm. Bouey: And would have been real – most things you could have done especially given your education, your privilege, your standing in the community, the access and opportunities that you had, many of varied individuals you were trying to desperately help did not have that and you were put in an even greater position to be able to help them and to bring about significant social change.
Boudin: You’re absolutely right, so that’s when I have to look back and say why did I stay, what was going on that made me stay, because it didn’t make no sense. It made no sense whatsoever. And I spent the last 22 years here, really –
Comm. Manley: Pondering?
Boudin: Pondering that and trying to understand it. I think that I had an image of myself as being the most committed simply by staying in that way of living. To have then gone back and become a teacher, taught, taught ESL or become a lawyer or work with communities around housing and all of that seemed to me to be average – normal, but by staying in my situation I gave myself the sense that I was better.
Comm. Bouey: Looking back retrospectively, keeping in mind what you just said, and I emphasize looking back retrospectively, because I’m considering where you claim your mind was at the time, do you feel that you allowed yourself to easily get involved with this group, the Black Liberation Army, to participate in what you claim you thought was going to be a robbery, because up until that point in time you as this mundane privileged, middle classed white person had not done anything of any great significance or any great importance to validate your commitment to the cause, and that being involved as something as significant as this, although I understand that you say you didn’t parcel out the potential consequences for what could have happened and what did happen, that this was your chance to make your mark in the movement.
Boudin: Yes, I do think that’s right, and I feel, like you said, it’s better than I could say it, I’m sort of speechless, because I feel that you just said that, I feel that that was what happened year after year was that I became in a sense more and more desperate, that the sense of self that I was proclaiming to be, I’m a great committed person, that’s about changing this country had no reality.
Comm. Bouey: This would give you an opportunity to put something real to it.
Boudin: Yes. And even worse is that because it had no reality, I was – my sense of self got more and more lost. Essentially, I had different names and I was living in a fantasy.
Comm. Bouey: Is that also why a woman who was, I think you were, what, 37, 38 years old at the time of this crime took place –
Boudin: Yes –
Comm. Bouey: Could put out of her mind the possibility, the great possibility or, let me just say, the great likelihood, I’ll even take it to that level, that during the commission of a robbery, that weapons were going to be involved and then when weapons are involved, there’s a great chance that people are either going to be hurt or lives could possibly be lost?
Boudin: I was able to put it out of my mind, because I was so desperate to be able to do something useful, and yet I was also about to make a major change in my life, which was, I had this process of knowing that the life was essentially destroying me as a person and finally made the decision that I was going to turn myself in to the authorities in Chicago and resume a normal life.
Comm. Bouey: So, you decided –
Boudin: I decided that.
Comm. Bouey: Prior to this?
Boudin: Yes, I was dealing with knowing, after this 12 years [as a fugitive] that I was going to make the life was – this life was destroying me and in a sense – first, I had a child and I think that was my first step towards saying that I want to lead a normal life. Then I had him and having him and beginning to look for a daycare center for him pushed me more to saying, I want to lead a normal life. This is not making sense.
Comm. Bouey: There was still that other piece that, obviously, was pulling you, because you also thought, I read in the record, that you took your son to the babysitter –
Comm. Bouey: Fully intended to participate in this crime –
Boudin: And come back and pick him up.
Comm. Bouey: - and figure at the end of the day, you’re simply going to go back to the babysitter and pick your baby up as if you had gone to work and done, you know, a normal 9 to 5?
Comm. Bouey: So, if that wasn’t an example of distorted thinking, I don’t know what was.
Boudin: Really, distorted, totally split thinking, and because I had not been around guns, was not involved in it, I saw myself as not even involved in the robbery in a certain way, because I didn’t have a relationship to it. I saw myself as waiting in a parking lot, essentially, to pick people up.
FrontPage Commentary: Obviously, the “split thinking” is still second nature to her. “Not been around guns?” Only bombs? “Not even involved in the robbery in a certain way?” What certain way? She was the member of a revolutionary army. What she means is that she got the idea of the revolution and her world historical importance confused with the reality – which was a sordid robbery that left three people dead and nine children without fathers.
By this point in the proceedings, Commissioner Bouey in particular is obviously very sympathetic to Boudin. It would be interesting to know what her politics are. She’s finishing her sentences for Boudin, reformulating her thoughts to make them more acceptable to her, and accepting her version of events – that Boudin wanted to return to Chicago, turn herself in, and live a normal life – even as she points out the inconsistencies in Boudin’s tale -- a woman who wanted to live a normal life wouldn’t be participating in bank robberies, for example.
Excerpt 4: Boudin Feigns Ignorance
Comm. Manley: How was the connection between you and the Black Liberation Army?
Boudin: The group of people that were doing it, I don’t know, I don’t really know what the Black Liberation Army is, or –
Comm. Manley: Did you approach them or they approached you? I heard they approached you?
Boudin: No, I was in contact with David [Gilbert], who was my son’s father, and we had two separate apartments, and sometimes we stayed together, sometimes we didn’t. And they called him, and he asked me if I would go out and meet with him. He said his name was Bob and do something which would be, hopefully, not dangerous, and so what I was presented with the idea of waiting in a parking lot and people are going to do a robbery –
FrontPageCommentary: This strains credulity. The May 19th Communist Organization, which organized the robbery, was a merger of ex-members of the Weather Underground and active members of the Black Liberation Army, along with some other extremists who came out of the 1960s Students for a Democratic Society. The group, named after the joint birthdays of Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X, had been active since the fall of 1979. Armed members broke Black Liberation Army leader JoAnne Chesimard (a.k.a. Assata Shakur) out of prison; later, they freed terrorist FALN leader William Morales from his guarded hospital bed, where he was recovering from blowing off eight of his own fingers in a bomb-making accident. Most likely, Boudin was a member of the May 19th Communist Organization from the start. The May 19th Communist Organization certainly knew how to find her and her son’s father, even though both were living as fugitives, under false identities – they’d obviously been in contact with them before.
Comm. Bouey: You didn’t see that as dangerous?
Boudin: No, not at all.
Comm. Bouey: You believed that at 30-something years old –
Comm. Bouey: An educated woman from a privileged background who had all of those things that you described, picking people up from a bank robbery is not being dangerous?
Boudin: Yeah, and I think again, it shows how completely disturbed I was.
FrontPage Commentary: Boudin no doubt thought it wasn’t dangerous, but not because she was disturbed. She had already rioted against the Chicago police, had already lived in a bomb factory that exploded underneath her, had spent a decade underground doing who-knows-what as part of a domestic terrorist group. Picking up armed robbers probably seemed relatively benign in comparison. Commissioner Bouey is skeptical of Boudin’s claims because Bouey’s treating and most likely thinking of Boudin here as a mentally disturbed do-gooder-gone-wrong rather than a communist revolutionary.
Excerpt 5: Boudin’s Compares Herself to the Anti-Slavery Abolitionists
Commissioner Bouey: Can you explain to us what you understood your role in this crime was going to be again?
Boudin: My role was going to be a white person in a truck that would move safely unidentified in the neighborhood.
Comm. Manley: With the loot.
Comm. Bouey: With the people as well.
Comm. Manley: With the people as well.
Boudin: With people jumping in the back of the truck. I had no idea if they had money or not.
Comm. Bouey: Well, they were robbing a bank.
Boudin: Yeah, but I didn’t have any idea whether there were other cars, other vehicles taking money. I didn’t know that.
Comm. Bouey: I’m just trying to be clear as to what your understanding is –
Comm. Bouey: As to your participation in all that was going to be. So, to go over this again, that you were going to be a white woman that was going to be –
Boudin: A passenger.
Comm. Bouey: A passenger in a van?
Comm. Bouey: And this van would be people who had participated in the robbery?
Comm. Bouey: And perhaps whatever loot they were able to get as a result of the robbery?
Comm. Bouey: And where did you think the van was going to be taking them to?
Boudin: I had no idea. I know that David [Gilbert] knew, David was told where to drive the truck.
Comm. Bouey: So, you had no idea when you agreed to do this where you were going to be going?
Comm. Bouey: As a passenger in the van?
Boudin: No, no.
Comm. Bouey: You never said, well –
Boudin: And I didn’t say what is the money for. I thought as a white person involved in supporting a struggle, that was essentially a Black struggle that it was wrong for me to know anything.
Comm. Bouey: Why?
Boudin: Because that’s the highest level of –
Comm. Bouey: Commitment?
Comm. Bouey: So, you didn’t ask them?
Comm. Bouey: They called, you received the call –
Comm. Bouey: This is my final – my day, my time?
Comm. Bouey: I’ll go.
Boudin: You seem to have it.
Comm. Bouey: And I’m deliberately being dramatic, because that’s kind of how it sounds.
Boudin: That’s it.
Comm. Bouey: And I’ll ask no questions, I’ll just do whatever is asked of me?
Boudin: Well –
Comm. Bouey: Take me, I’m yours.
Boudin: I’m not going to do whatever – I was willing to do that role, that I felt was safe.
Comm. Bouey: Well, you were willing to do that role and not know where you were going, I mean, you potentially put your own life in jeopardy or in danger.
Boudin: I clearly did put my life in jeopardy. I was terrified.
Comm. Bouey: Yeah.
Boudin: Yes, because I had an ideology, I had a framework that said, essentially, white people, because of having privileges, are essentially bad.
Comm. Bouey: So, this was a chance for you to do two things, not only assuage the guilt you had been feeling for so many years being white and privileged by helping this organization, but also you were in a position where you could use your whiteness as it were as a decoy, is that not right, is that not one of the reasons you were deliberately chosen or asked to fulfill this particular role, because a white woman and a passenger in a van was less likely to attract attention from police than a person of color?
Boudin: Yes. I think the idea was, in my mind, I was a white –
[Break in transcript, as the reporter changes paper.]
Comm. Bouey: You said in your mind you were a white person in a truck.
Boudin: And a robbery was being done by black people and the truck would not be seen, would not be noticed, and that I would drive through the neighborhood on the thruway to wherever it was going, unnoticed.
Comm. Bouey: Because not only with a white person in a truck, but a white woman in the truck and the likelihood of a white woman committing such a crime like that was slim.
Comm. Bouey: At least back then. Things have changed -
Boudin: Yes, yes.
Comm. Bouey: - since that time, but –
Boudin: I had – part of what I had done during the years that I was waitressing and trying to figure out, trying to give meaning to my life was I did a lot of reading about the Civil War period and the abolitionists of government, and I thought about, a lot about the white woman at the time in history that had helped in the underground railway. So I took into myself the idea that that’s what I’m doing, I’m like that, but it was distorted and I was –
Comm. Bouey: You should write a book, or write something.
Boudin: It was a complete distorted disturbed view, and you can have political discussions about it, but in reality I was a disturbed person that was living a life that made no sense. So, yes, I saw myself on that day like the white women during the Civil War and that abolitionist government. I don’t know who is a runaway slave, your know, they don’t know who was a runaway slave, I don’t know who jumped into the truck, they moved from one house to another house, I don’t know, it’s not for me to – in fact, it shows that I’m willing to, in a sense, relinquish both the power as a white person. I have not asked questions, it was a sick – it was a completely sick, it was sick.
Comm. Bouey: And jeopardizes your baby while you’re out there –
Boudin: Yeah, it was. Moving myself –
Comm. Bouey: Yeah.
Boudin: And it was part of why I was able to say to myself – and part of why I was able to say to myself oh, this is completely safe, because I was planning to go right back home and pick up my son.
FrontPage Commentary: It’s hard to think of a more odious juxtaposition than comparing a pack of thugs who murdered police officers in the service of a combination of black separatism and communism to runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Yet Boudin used this image to present herself as someone who, while having done wrong, did it with the most noble of intentions; intentions she hoped would please the two black parole commissioners. She seemed to have succeeded. Commissioner Bouey’s habit of answering Boudin’s questions and completing Boudin’s sentences for her shows are signs of sympathy; so is her failure to challenge Boudin’s professed good intentions, which, on reflection, are ridiculous – the Weather Underground and May 19th Communist Organization were revolutionary domestic terrorist groups, not civil rights organizations. Bouey’s encouragement of Boudin to ‘write a book, or write something’ shows us clearly that the ploy worked; thanks to Boudin’s successful portrayal of herself as a confused supporter of black civil rights rather than a clear-minded domestic terrorist, the commissioners let a murderer go free.
Supporters of Boudin pointed to her extensive community service, performed while in prison. But parole boards have a responsibility to assess not only the character of the inmate; they must also take into account the risk to society posed by that inmate’s release. For cases of domestic terrorism, like Boudin’s, the parole board must consider not only the risk posed directly by the offender but the risk to society inherent in releasing that offender. While Judge Ritter told Boudin in 1984 that he expected her to be paroled once her twenty year minimum was up, 1984 was quite different from 2003. Boudin was tried at a time when left-wing terrorism was on the decline, the last anachronistic gasp of 1960s radical movement. Today, left-wing terrorism is on the rise, led by radical environmentalist groups; these groups have done tens of millions in property damage and some may be planning to target individuals. Support networks for jailed domestic terrorists have sprung up, and revere these criminals as ‘political prisoners’; many young people of an anarchist bent admire now-defunct groups like the Weather Underground and May 19th Communist Organization for their ‘direct action.’ Releasing Boudin sends any potential domestic terrorists among these activists a message – if you get caught committing an act of violence, the state will be lenient. At a time when terrorism must be deterred by harsh punishment, sending this message puts society unacceptably at risk; for this reason alone, Boudin should not have been released.