Katherine Boudin is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and has been named the Sheinberg Scholar-in-Residence at NYU Law School. She is also a communist, a Weather Underground radical, a terrorist, and a convicted felon.
Whatever you’ve heard about Boudin, the fully detailed reality is far worse.
The story of Kathy Boudin’s crimes and her victims is bloody and ugly. Many details get left out or smoothed over, even by her critics. There’s a wider importance to Boudin’s story: it’s yet another example of how the left uses America’s most respected universities as both a breeding ground and a retirement home for radicals; a way to give violent ideologically driven criminals both legitimacy and a paycheck, often at taxpayers’ expense.
These American terrorists and advocates of overthrow like Dr. Kathy Boudin are given a pass by academia and lauded in the arts because they promote communism, socialism and bloody revolution. As such, they are idolized by the left establishment, who view them as ideologically pure embodiments of their ideals, carnage be damned.
Kathy Boudin: Bloodthirsty Princess of the Leftist Aristocracy
An unvarnished, detailed look at the beliefs and actions of Kathy Boudin over her adult life indicates a bloodlust, both for authority figures and the innocent, that can only be described as evil.
Boudin is often referred to as a “1960s radical,” but that label is part of the misleading whitewash of her past and makes her crimes seem like they come from the Mad Men or Woodstock era. The truth is that the infamous Brinks robbery for which she spent twenty years in prison happened in October 1981. To put it in perspective, Boudin was actively planning and committing violent acts of leftist robbery, murder and terror the same month that albums were released by Depeche Mode, Billy Idol, and Prince.
That being clarified, there’s no doubt that Boudin has an exceptional leftist pedigree. Kathy Boudin’s great-uncle was Louis Boudin, a socialist labor lawyer and Marxist scholar, and her father was Leonard Boudin, a renowned leftist attorney whose clients included Fidel Castro. Kathy Boudin would go on to spend time in Cuba in 1961. According to Susan Braudy’s book Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, Boudin’s father was also an open philanderer who took a romantic interest in his daughter’s friends. When Kathy was a child, her mother Jean Boudin had a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide. People who flitted in and out of the family’s life included Noam Chomsky, Dr. Benjamin Spock and the anarchist intellectual (and her father’s former lover) Paul Goodman.
Kathy Boudin was a child of upper-middle class privilege, attending good schools and eventually earning a degree at Bryn Mawr. She followed in her father’s footsteps and became involved in student activism while in college and hooked up with Students for a Democratic Society or SDS.
Starting in 1964, Boudin began work as a community organizer with an SDS project called Economic Research and Action Project (or ERAP) in Cleveland. She decided to “live a life immersed in the community, almost like a vow of poverty taken by nuns” and lived communally in a poor area of the city.
In 1968, the Cleveland project collapsed. Boudin went to Chicago for the riots at the Democratic National Convention. She volunteered for an operation that involved rubbing rotten eggs on the floor of delegates’ lounges at the Palmer Hotel. Her comrades were caught and in a 2001 interview, Boudin describes a choice she made in 1968:
“If I leave, they’ll be heroes and nobody will know that I’m doing this work. It was that anxiety: how am I going to prove that I’m a committed person?”
Boudin got herself arrested. She said in that same 2001 interview: “I was somebody who was looking for a way to be a hero.”
The SDS, Weathermen, Days of Rage and The War Council
The SDS, originally known as a low-action, intellectual group of leftists, started to fight that image by becoming more radical and embracing the thought of Mao and Marx.
As the New York Times recalled, Bryn Mawr dornmates Boudin and Oughten travled to Cuba: “In l969, both Kathy and Diana, by then close comrades, went to Cuba as part of a Students for a Democratic Society (S.D.S.) delegation. And both came back starry-eyed about Castro and his educational reforms.”
In June, the Weather Underground was formed and Boudin was part of it from the beginning, joining the communal living/training camps that were formed and taking money from her parents to fund it. As the New York Times reported:
Separating into collectives of 10 to 20 persons each, they attempted to create what they called a ”Red Army.” One Weatherman would later tell me that in order to rid the members of their bourgeois habits, the collectives forced couples to separate, required homosexuality, drug taking and round-the-clock sessions of self-criticism. One time, they skinned and ate an alley cat. My contact, thin, trembling and glassy-eyed, said that the houses were full of dirty dishes, rancid food and stinking toilets. Often rising at dawn, they would practice karate, train at rifle clubs, and enact scenarios to work out how they would grapple with police and where they would kick them.
The first major event by the newly trained Weather Underground was the October 1969 Days of Rage protest in Chicago. Anyone familiar with the modern Occupy Wall Street movement’s calls for direct action will see the historical antecedent in the Days of Rage, which was conceived as a national action with acts of vandalism and assaults on police officers. Kathy Boudin was there and arrested for her part in the Days of Rage.
In his book Underground: My Life with the SDS and Weather Underground, Mark Rudd describes Kathy Boudin as “an older SDSer who had worked in community organizing” and says she was in the front ranks of the group that attacked police, alongside Bernadine Dohrn and Diana Oughten:
About 70 members of a women’s militia marched into Grant Park; Kathy Boudin, her hair cropped and face pressed into an expression worthy of Joan of Arc, carried the Viet Cong flag on a heavy pole.
The Days of Rage scared off much of the mainstream support for the SDS, leaving only the most radical. In December of 1969, the SDS War Council was held in Flint, Michigan. Largely led by members of the Weather Underground, what came to be known as the Flint War Council meeting was the rhetorical stage for much of the bloodshed that was to come.
Over three hundred people attended, including Kathy Boudin and future Obama neighbors Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, who were both extremely active Weather Underground leaders. Decisions were made to ‘go underground’ and to launch an offensive against the United States. At one point, they discussed whether white babies were valid targets and Boudin gave a speech referring to mothers of white babies as ‘pig mothers.’
For the War Council event, the group hung posters of their heroes, including Lenin and Mao. They also put bullets on posters of people they hated and reviled, including Ronald Reagan and Sharon Tate. Tate was the pregnant actress who had been murdered by the Manson family. Bernadine Dorhn praised Charles Manson and his group’s horrific Tate-LaBianca murders to the attendees of the War Council: “First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they even shoved a fork into the pig Tate’s stomach! Wild!”
Appallingly, Kathy Boudin and her friend Diana Oughten took to calling themselves “The Fork.” The War Council began using a finger salute with each other, a reference to the fork that the Manson cultists had used on Sharon Tate and her unborn child.
The meeting wasn’t just talk; it was the kick-off for what would become over twenty bombings and other terrorist acts over the next 15 years. From the New York Times:
After the Flint War Council in December, the Weather Bureau, recognizing that their lack of widespread popularity boded ill for building a mass movement, decided to form a secret guerrilla army immediately. They split up into affinity groups of four or five and worked at a manic pitch to assemble and construct bombs. Only about 75 were chosen for this mission, and the rest were purged, or dropped out of their own accord. […]
The New York cell contained two Weather leaders, Kathy Boudin and Cathlyn Wilkerson, as well as Diana, and two other active Weathermen, Terry Robbins and Ted Gold, and was located at the West 11th Street home of Cathlyn Wilkerson’s father, who was away at the time. After firebombing the home of the judge in the conspiracy trial of the Black Panther 21 – a group of militant Black Panthers charged with bombing a long list of targets including department stores and police stations – the Weatherman cell decided more dramatic and damaging action was needed. On March 2, one of the Weathermen purchased two 50-pound cases of dynamite in New Hampshire for a planned random bombing of buildings at Columbia University, the site of student uprisings in the spring of 1968. The 11th Street cell members debated whether to use antipersonnel bombs and the appropriateness of the proposed target. Kathy Boudin reportedly favored it.
A little before noon on March 6, 1970 one of the bombs was accidentally detonated. Cathy Wilkerson was in an upstairs bathroom and Boudin was in the shower when the explosion ripped through the historic townhouse.
As Cathy Wilkerson wrote later, “The whole townhouse rose up a foot or two, shattering bricks and splintering wooden beams, and then was transformed into dust and rubble, shuddering into a deep pit in which a ruptured gas main burst into flame.”
A fully nude Boudin and half-dressed Wilkerson ran into the street. Stunned next door neighbor Dustin Hoffman surveyed the destruction. Hoffman’s wife covered up Boudin and Henry Fonda’s ex-wife took the girls in.
Three members of the Weather Underground weren’t as lucky as Wilkerson and Boudin. Authorities found the “headless body of a young woman, missing both hands and a foot, and riddled with roofing nails.” That was Diana Oughton, Boudin’s fellow Bryn Mawr alumna. Two other terrorists were killed, Terry Robbins and Ted Gold; Robbins body was so completely demolished that he was only identified when the Weathermen announced his loss weeks later.
The pipe bombs were put together with nails and dynamite. They had been intended to be detonated at a dance at New Jersey’s Fort Dix for non-commissioned officers and their wives or girlfriends. One can only imagine the sickening horror if the bombs had been unleashed on their planned targets–working class NCOs and women–instead of the bomb makers themselves.
In the days leading up to the explosion, there were debates within the group about making bombs to be used against people; Kathy Boudin was one of the strongest advocates for using the nail bombs to injure or kill.
After the explosion, Boudin saw her parents, and she and Wilkerson made the choice to go on the run. Ayers and Dorhn skipped a court date and went into hiding as well. The terrorism continued.
The townhouse incident did nothing to slow down Boudin’s commitment to violent revolution or to working with bombs. In 1971, Boudin and Bernadine Dohrn placed an explosive device in a restroom at the United States Capitol building.
Here’s news footage of the Weather Underground attacks on the Capitol–the first damage to the building since the British burned it in 1814–as well as other Weather Underground attacks on Pentagon in 1972 (on May 19th–Kathy Boudin’s birthday and as you’ll see in a moment, a significant date for other reasons) and the State Department and other buildings in Oakland, California and Washington D.C. in 1975.
Kathy Boudin on the Run and the Brinks Heist
By the 1980s and after a decade as a fugitive, Boudin was now part of a group that was a merger between the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army called the May 19th Communist Organization.
According to a government report on Left Wing Terrorism, the May 19th Communist Organization
…took its name from the joint birthdays of Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X. The alliance had three objectives:
1. to free political prisoners held in American prisons,
2. to use appropriation of capitalist wealth to fund the third stage, and
3. to initiate a series of bombings and terrorist attacks.
Part of this plan of appropriation were planned robberies of Brinks trucks. Boudin was collecting welfare checks at the time but living in an upper West Side condo with a roommate, a Stamford Advocate reporter named Rita Jensen.
Some accounts of Boudin’s story claim that Jensen didn’t know Boudin’s identity until after the robbery, but this 1984 article shows that Jensen knew she was living with an FBI fugitive a year before the Brinks crime; she discovered that she was living with Kathy Boudin when she saw a TV news story about the surrender of Cathy Wilkerson in July 1980.
Jensen says she discussed the idea of Boudin surrendering to authorities with her. The reporter only revealed who she was living with after Boudin’s arrest for the Brinks robbery and murders and initially lied about when she knew. Jensen’s ex-husband said in 1981 of Boudin and Jensen, “They had established a family with the children and I’m sure there were strong feelings involved.”
Boudin didn’t surrender. Instead, she decided to help execute the Brinks robbery that netted $1.6 million dollars and left three people dead.
The Brinks heist is often described as a ‘botched robbery’, but this is another characterization of Boudin’s crimes that gives an inaccurate impression, as though the Brinks robbery took an unexpected violent turn. This isn’t true; the crime was planned as a violent ambush and was carried out according to plan.
Boudin was behind the wheel one of the getaway cars, the idea being that a white woman driver would arouse less suspicion than her mostly black male cohorts.
This account explains the ambush on the Brink’s truck:
[Boudin and David Gilber] drove in a U-Haul truck to a position near the Nanuet Mall. They waited there.
A Brink’s truck entered the mall parking area, drove to the business entrance, and stopped. It was nearly 4 p.m., Oct. 20, 1981. Two members of the crew went inside. They emerged shortly, lugging bulging bags. They were stuffed with $1.6 million in cash.
Suddenly a van carrying heavily armed Black Liberation Army members roared up. The doors were flung open, and out jumped robbers, firing assault weapons.
One guard, Peter Paige, was hit multiple times and died on the spot. The second, Joe Trombino, managed to get off a single shot from his handgun, but was hit in the shoulder and arm, the bullets nearly severing arm from body. He survived his injuries and continued to work for Brink’s for another 20 years.
One horrible irony; while Joe Trombino survived the Brink’s robbery, he tragically became one of the over 3,000 to be killed on September 11th, 2001. The murder that Boudin and her America-hating domestic terrorist cohorts didn’t finish was completed by America-hating foreign terrorists twenty years later.
After they escaped and left Paige to die, the perpetrators, members of the so-called “May 19t Communist Organization,” went to a lot nearby. Boudin and her baby’s father, Weather Underground radical David Gilbert, were in the cab of the U-Haul truck that Boudin had rented for the robbery. The six gunmen, weapons in hand, got into the back of the U-Haul.
The U-Haul and another getaway vehicle attempted to drive onto the New York State Thruway but the police had it blocked. Sargent Edward O’Grady and officer Waverly Brown and two Detectives, Keenan and Lennon, stopped the vehicle.
Despite the fact that she knew that armed men were in the back of vehicle, Kathy Boudin gave no warning to the police officers surrounding the truck. Boudin exited the truck and put her hands up. The police demanded the back of truck be opened.
The following is the official police report of the incident:
Detective Keenan then heard a noise, turned around, saw a black male wearing a ski mask, standing at the passenger side rear of the U-Haul truck, spraying bullets at him from a short barreled rifle.
Detective Keenan pulled his revolver and dove to the ground, seeking cover. He felt a bullet pass between his legs, and fired six rounds at the black male. Detective Keenan observed another black male run toward police car number 384. At that point, Police Officer Brown was lying on the ground, having already been shot. Sergeant O’Grady was taking cover behind the passenger side door of car 384. He had fired all six rounds from his revolver and was crouching and reloading. The black male that had been firing at Detective Keenan ran behind the passenger side of car 384 and sprayed Sergeant O’Grady with automatic rifle fire.
Officer Lennon then fired two shotgun shots at the person by the U-Haul truck. Someone then jumped into the cab of the UHaul, which was idling, and rammed the police car. Officer
Lennon saw a black male driving and fired two shots into the cab of the U-Haul.
O’Grady and Brown were killed. Kathy Boudin, David Gilbert and others were arrested.
Boudin, the lawyer’s daughter, became very practical. Her father’s law partner, successful leftist litigator Leonard Weinglass, led the defense and he eschewed the radical slant taken by most of the other Brink’s criminals, including Gilbert, using an ordinary criminal defense.
In the lead-up to her trial, Weinglass tried a number of angles but suddenly, Boudin pled guilty. Weinglass tried to make the case that Boudin was non-violent. When asked about Boudin’s involvement in the Greenwich Village explosion, he told the New York Times:
”She was asleep on the fifth floor when the explosion occurred,” Mr. Weinglass said. The three who died in the explosion, he added, ”were all in the basement.”
According to Catherine Wilkerson’s book Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman and all other accounts, Boudin was in the shower when the explosion happened and not asleep. More importantly, Boudin was an active leader of the Weather Underground cell planning to use bombs against people, as she had advocated.
She said the right things to Judge David Ritter: ”I feel terrible about the lives that were lost. I have led a life of commitment to political principles, and I think I can be true to those principles without engaging in violent acts.”
That notion of non-violent political activism appears to have occurred to Ms. Boudin for the first time after nearly two decades explicitly advocating violent political action, at age forty and while she was under arrest and facing the possibility of hard time.
How did Kathy Boudin spend her incarceration? According to her son Chesa, writing in The Nation in 2003, she was at one of the ‘best prisons in the country.’
…Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, where my mom has spent nineteen of her twenty-two years behind bars, is one of the best prisons in the country, and the visiting room shows it. It has a child-friendly, stimulating environment with a portion of the visiting room dedicated to a carpeted and cheerfully painted “children’s center.” The children’s center has games, toys, blocks, paper and pens, pillows, books–everything useful for normal mother-child interaction.
At her parole hearing in 2003, Kathy Boudin describes the 1970 townhouse explosion and her decision to become a fugitive terrorist. This is Kathy Boudin–the woman who was arrested at the Days of Rage and who attend the Flint War Council where the decisions were made to launch terror attacks on the United States–this is that Kathy Boudin describing how she ended up at the house where bombs meant to kill soldiers and their dance partners killed other Weather Underground members.
And I was staying overnight at this house, it was like a movement house. It was a place where people were having discussions, talking about the work that they were doing. And I was taking a shower the next morning and the house collapses around me, essentially. And I subsequently learned that people had been actually making a bomb in the basement of that house. And people were killed. The people that were killed were not people that I knew that, well, one 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.
And here is how she describes her life ‘underground’ for ten years–the woman who made choice after choice to stay part of a communist terror squad with activities that included planting a bomb the U.S Capitol building–to the parole board in 2003:
I was involved in a larger community, I guess you’d have to say which involved —
I did a lot of educational work in that time. Other people built bombs during that time, and I thought that it was all right to do that, because I felt that it was a way to protest. I don’t feel that way now. I feel that it’s wrong.
In the same 2003 hearing, Kathy Boudin also claimed to not know what the Black Liberation Army is:
Q: How was the connection between you and the Black Liberation Army?
A: The group of people that were doing it, I don’t know, I don’t really know what the Black Liberation Army is, or —
Kathy Boudin was blatantly lying; he had named her son Chesa after her heroine, Joanne Chesimard, ”Queen of the Black Liberation Army.” Boudin wrote a poem dedicated to Chesimard, who escaped from prison, where she was serving life for her role in killing a policeman. She is thought to be living in Cuba today.
Boudin said she saw herself as not even involved in the robbery.
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.
Kathy Boudin was paroled in 2003. Her attorney described her as “hysterically happy.”
Not everyone was hysterically happy. As mentioned in the Yale Daily News; “I’m physically ill right now,” Brent Newbury, president of the Rockland County Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, told the Associated Press. “I can’t believe I just saw Kathy Boudin walk out of prison.”
On the announcement of Boudin’s parole in 2003, Democracy Now! interviewed her son Chesa Boudin:
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you were raised by another family, friends of your parents, Bernadine Dorn and Bill Ayers, who themselves were former members of the Weather Underground.
CHESA BOUDIN: Correct. And, you know, growing up in a household where politics are important and where people think about those ideas has been a huge advantage to me, just growing up caring about the world I live in, as compared to a lot of families where politics are de-emphasized.
Chesa Boudin : The Lefist Aristocracy’s Next Generation
How does having a mother and father who are convicted murderers, acknowledged communist revolutionaries and being raised by two of their terrorist comrades work out for Chesa Boudin?
Quite well, apparently.
A brutally honest article by Emily Yoffee from Slate magazine entitled “Weatherson: Chesa Boudin, radical chic Rhodes scholar” in 2002 described how Chesa–a sometime Atlantic contributor who has written extensively about Hugo Chavez–has fared in life:
One of the most significant baubles a young American can earn is a Rhodes scholarship–another would have to be a front-page story in the New York Times celebrating the award. Today the Times lauded Chesa Boudin, 22, for overcoming “striking challenges” to earn this most establishment certification of promise. Boudin’s parents, the Times noted, missed his “Phi Beta Kappa award, high school graduation, Little League games” because since he was 14 months old they have been in prison. The article opens by describing how Boudin was not even able to share the news of his accomplishment with them. […]
As Michelle Malkin wrote in 2002:
What about the “striking challenges” faced by these three officers’ children, who were robbed of their fathers forever and have never enjoyed the privileged lifestyle of a radical son like Chesa Boudin? Brown, who served in the Air Force after the Korean War, had two grown daughters and a teenage son. O’Grady, who served in the Marines and did two tours of duty in Vietnam, left behind a wife and three children – 6, 2, and 6 months old. Paige, a Navy veteran, also left behind a wife and three kids – 19, 16, and 9.
On the matter of their suffering and hardships, Chesa Boudin and his fawning interviewers are silent.
Kathy Boudin’s Columbia University Teacher’s Descripion
Here, in full, is Kathy Boudin’s official biography from Columbia University. You’ll notice no mention of her well-documented past. It’s just as scrubbed as her 2003 parole descriptions.
Dr. Kathy Boudin has been an educator and counselor with experience in program development since 1964, working within communities with limited resources to solve social problems, and supporting individuals to overcome their own odds and develop a sense of strength and direction. Dr. Boudin has focused her work on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and criminal justice issues including women in prison; mother-child relationships and parenting from a distance; adolescent relationships with incarcerated parents; restorative justice, and higher education and basic literacy inside correctional institutions.
Dr. Boudin is employed by the Center for Comprehensive Care, HIV AIDS Center, at St. Lukes Roosevelt Hospital where she is developing programs related to health care for people who are HIV Positive and counseling patients individually and in groups. She is currently a consultant to the Osborne Association in the development of a Longtermers Responsibility Project taking place in the New York State Correctional Facilities utilizing a restorative practice approach. Dr. Boudin also has been a consultant for Vermont Corrections, the Women’s Prison Association, and Family Justice.
She has provided training and supervision to social workers as they work with individual people in prison.
She received her Ed.D. from Columbia University, Teachers College.
The Power Of Ideas
Imagine this: there’s a woman–let’s call her Katrina–who is an avowed American Nazi. Katrina’s father was also a well-known Nazi, an attorney who defended other American Nazis in courtroom battles and who had connections with well known Nazis around the world. In her late 20s, Katrina takes this ideology to its logical conclusion and becomes a Nazi terrorist who plots to kill people.
Katrina goes on the run from the law for a decade and eventually takes an active part in a robbery that’s going to raise money to fund Nazi terror attacks. The robbery ends up turning violent and people are killed, including two police officers. Katrina is caught and sent to prison.
Did we mention that Katrina has an infant son? She sends her son off to live with two members of her Nazi terror cell while she does her time in prison.
Cut to twenty years later. Katrina’s son is now a committed Nazi supporter. Katrina is paroled from prison and is still preaching Nazism, although she’s not actively making bombs. Nonetheless, she has the same Nazi ideology that led her to decide that committing all those earlier acts of terror was an acceptable course of conduct.
Would you consider Katrina reformed? Safe? Someone who has turned over a new leaf? Would Katrina the Nazi be welcomed back into civil society with open arms or shunned, as she should be? Think anyone would make a movie portraying her as a heroine?
Now substitute the word Communist for the word Nazi in this story. While you’re at it, substitute the name Kathy Boudin for the name Katrina.
Boudin’s defenders–and more significantly, the defenders of the leftist ideology that created the horrors that Kathy Boudin and her intellectual comrades unleashed on the lives of so many people–would like us all to completely dismiss the notion that ideas matter.
The abstract concepts of social justice and class struggle led Kathy Boudin to help cause the grim reality of the headless, shredded bodies of her friends in the Greenwich Village rubble and to the slain policeman and security guards, those husbands and fathers who ended up dying bloody on the New York pavement in the fall of 1981.
Boudin’s uncle, Old Left journalist I.F. Stone, said “Weathermen are the most sensitive of a generation that feels in its bones what we older people only grasp as an abstraction.”
Boudin came from a leftist family but that in no way determined her fate. Free will and choices matter more in a life than family background. Her brother Michael Boudin rejected the family’s ideology, graduated from Harvard Law and went on to work in Ronald Reagan’s Department of Justice before being nominated to the U.S. United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, by President George H.W. Bush. Judge Boudin is scheduled to take Senior Status there in June.
Kathy and Michael Boudin: two siblings, two very different ideologies and life choices and two very different outcomes and impacts on the lives of those around them.
The families of the police officers that Boudin was convicted of helping to murder have a charity to help aspiring law enforcement students. For more information about the O’Grady Brown scholarship fund, visit their website at OGradyBrown.com