Why, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo asked, when he met with Judith Clark at Bedford Hills women's prison, where she had been detained for decades, had she participated in the 1981 Brink's robbery that left two cops and one security guard dead? What drove her, he wanted to know. The Vietnam War was over, wasn't it, he might have been thinking, a war that drove people of her generation to crazy acts and expectations.
"Were you on drugs?" he asked.
"No," she replied. "I was on politics."
Politics of a certain kind can be the hardest drug, and not the easiest to kick, even when the events that had generated and seemingly justified the world view were no more.
Cuomo was genuinely curious. And so she talked about, "about how I understood that the groupthink and zealotry and internalized loyalty had sapped me of my own moral compass."
Clark's transformation in prison, where she had been since 1981, had come to his attention, which was he why he visited her.
According to the NY Times account, "lawyers, Catholic nuns in prison ministries, a former chairman of the state parole board, 13 past presidents of the New York City Bar Association, the former Bedford Hills prison superintendent and Ronnie Eldridge, [and] a former city councilwoman from Manhattan" spoke up for her.
People can change in prison, but not always, necessarily, for the better. She had, though.
When she learned about the attacks on 9/11 she wrote"
"I dread having to claim kindredness with those who perpetrated the carnage of Sept. 11, 2001. But my shame and remorse do not diminish my responsibility to examine the long, knotted thread that connects my actions with the recent attacks.
In this brave, smart statement she admits that she was once susceptible to the kind of fanaticism that binds together such apparently disparate things as the Brinks Robbery and 9/11.
Before you can be free of an addiction you have at the very least to be able to name it. Not everyone hooked on "politics" has.
Gov. Cuomo, after talking to Judy Clark, reduced her 75-year sentence to 35 years. That does not mean she will be granted parole in 2017 but at least she will be eligible.
The interaction between Andrew Cuomo and Judy Clark brings credit to both.