by Jennifer Mancuso
Before we kick off this series of interviews about Judy Clark, I want to acknowledge Officers Waverly Brown and Ed O’Grady and Brinks guard Peter Paige. I have talked to hundreds of people in our community about Brinks over the past few years. I am always grateful when someone knew one of these men personally and has a story that can connect me to who they were. I was so moved by the story Constance Frasier told at the Brinks 34th memorial service about her cousin Waverly Brown. She said that when he was killed there was a receipt found in his shirt pocket for a turkey he had just bought as a donation. That was the kind of generous hearted guy he was. That is what everyone tells me about “Chipper” Brown. One mother told me that Waverly Brown came to her door to let her know when her son was getting into mischief. She had the sense that he really cared and was looking out for her family.
Ed O’Grady and his loving, devoted wife had three babies at the time of his murder. My son is six now. The same age as Ed O’Grady’s son and oldest child at the time he was killed. He also had two daughters aged 2 and 6 months. Ed O’Grady grew up in Rockland County, served in the Vietnam War and then served in the Nyack police department. He lived, risked and ultimately sacrificed his life to protect the safety and freedom of others. This man was a hero beyond what I can comprehend.
Peter Paige was also a loving and devoted family man, with a daughter and two sons. Although I haven’t met anyone who knew him personally, he has been described as hard working, mild mannered. He was a loyal employee of Brinks for 25 years. He would now be a grandfather.
I have talked to several hundred people about the Brinks crime, mostly from our community but many who live outside of Rockland County as well. While there are strong feelings for and against Judy Clark’s sentence commutation, I have not encountered one person who does not feel and understand that losing these three men in the violent attacks on October 20, 1981 was a profound and devastating loss to their families and to our community as a whole. While our opinions about Judy Clark may be divided, our hearts are united in empathy for these families.
My interest in and support of Judy Clark does not excuse or forgive her for participating in this horrific crime. My support for Judy comes from my deep belief that our criminal justice system is tragically broken. A large majority of the women at Bedford Hills Maximum Security prison suffer from mental illness, have been victims of sexual abuse, come from poverty, have drug addiction or some combination of these issues. These people do not belong discarded in prison. They belong in treatment programs. They need our care and attention, they do not need to be hidden away and disregarded in prison, where the abuse they suffer will only exacerbate their conditions. We as a society need to pay attention to them, not ship them away and forget about them.
It is also my personal belief that we are not meant to sit in eternal judgment of one another. Vengeance and infinite punishment are not virtues. To me, recognizing redemption does more to honor the lives that were lost and to heal the wounds in our community. I recognize that I am not a family member of one of these heroes. I have suffered loss, but not at the hands of violent crime. I would hope that after 35 years I would be capable of feeling mercy, but the truth is, I don’t know. I suppose that is why family members don’t sit on the jury and determine justice for the crimes that affect them so profoundly.
For me, Judy is the finest example of redemption I have ever known. When I ask Judy about her mindset in her days with the Weather Underground, she says that she was so caught up that she believed that she was so right and her convictions were so strong that it didn’t matter what anyone else believed or how they were affected. She now fully recognizes, appreciates and lives with the awareness that everyone has his or her own equally legitimate truth and in every person on each side of a disagreement there is a piece of the divine.
I asked Judy if she cried when she got the news of her commutation. She said she did not cry then nor when her daughter arrived for a visit to the prison the next day. She said the one time she cried was when she read Edward O’Grady III’s statement in the NY Times. She said that made her cry. It was the most generous and benevolent thing she had ever felt.
Judy says that she is acutely aware and understands that her sentence commutation is painful and difficult for all those who suffered loss. She will always feel responsibility for the lives that were lost and the damage she caused. She understands how her remorse may seem unauthentic because she is also hoping to be released from prison. She hopes that if she ever is released from prison her apology will be more meaningful to the families, and she will always continue to seek ways to offer that apology to our community and to the families of Waverly Brown, Ed O’Grady and Peter Paige.
by Jennifer Mancuso
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