Correspondence with Archbishop Desmond Tutu Regarding Clemency for David Gilbert – PDF

2010 Correspondence with Archbishop Desmond Tutu Regarding Clemency for David Gilbert

From: Michael Ratner

Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 4.51 PM

To: Desmond Tutu

Cc: Michael Ratner

Subject: Re: David Gilbert : Clemency and Governor David Patterson: Follow-up and Phone Numbers

Dear Archbishop Tutu,

Thank you for your prompt response. I had heard about this voyage and am glad you have returned. I imagine it was a remarkable experience.

Here are the numbers for Governor Patterson and you can call them in the order set forth: [redacted]

The Governor leaves office on Dec 31 so he needs to act before then.

Apparently the Governor is willing to consider clemency for Panthers and other activists who did not take a life, applied for clemency before October 1, and are elderly.

David Gilbert fits these criteria. He did not personally harm anyone; has spent twenty nine years in prison, is 66 years old and asked for clemency in August. After spending almost half his life in prison (three decades) as a model prisoner and initiating a life saving AIDS program, it is time for forgiveness.

Finally, if necessary, you can use the letter you sent previously as a guide for the conversation.

A very good holiday to you.

Michael Ratner


Center for Constitutional Rights


From: Desmond Tutu

Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 11:37 AM

To: Michael Ratner

Subject: RE: Important: Clemency Request Follow Up to Archbishop Tutu Urgent

Dear Friend,

Thanks for yours. We have just got back after a 4 month voyage sailing round the world with 600 college students. I’m writing this at the airport in Johannesburg.I will try to contact the Governor tomorrow when I am back in Cape Town and take it from there.

God bless you for Christmas and 2011,



From: Michael Ratner

Sent: 21 December 2010 06:47 PM

To: Desmond Tutu

Cc: Michael Ratner

Subject: Important: Clemency Request Follow Up to Archbishop Tutu Urgent


666 Broadway

New York, New York 10014

Dear Archbishop Tutu,

I am writing to you with genuine urgency to ask for your help yet again securing the freedom of David Gilbert, an American political activist who has been in prison in New York State for the past 29 years for his role in what is known as the Brink’s robbery.

This past May you wrote a letter to New York State Governor David Paterson urging him to grant clemency to Mr. Gilbert before leaving office at the end of this year. Thanks to your eloquent letter, as well as the advocacy efforts of other friends and allies in the human rights community, Governor Paterson is now well aware of his case. We feel that he is sympathetic, but he needs courage to take the brave and humane step of granting clemency, pardon, or a reduced sentence to Gilbert.

I am therefore writing to ask you to call Governor Paterson to urge him to grant clemency, pardon, or commutation of sentence to Mr. Gilbert. It is our hope that a phone call from you could help give the Governor the moral strength he needs to take this bold step.

As the President of the Center for Constitutional Rights I have been well aware of Mr. Gilbert’s case since his incarceration. As you may know the Center is one of the strongest and most principled human rights organizations in the United States. It is the Center that took on the earliest Guantanamo cases and it is the Center that is helping represent those who seek to end the blockade of Gaza. On moral and legal principles I believe that it is time for the Governor to act in Mr. Gilbert’s case.

For many years Mr. Gilbert has expressed his deep remorse for his role in the Brinks robbery, and he continues to work to understand the suffering and harm caused to all the victim families and their communities. Several years ago he wrote, “The loss and pain for the families of those killed are grievous beyond words…. Today, I’m not someone who would ever participate in violence against any person nor would I advocate such as an appropriate method for social change.”

The Governor only has a few more days in office. Before he returns to civilian life on January 1st, he has the opportunity to grant freedom to a man who has dedicated himself to social justice, has a flawless prison record, and has paid a harsh price for his crimes. I know you are called on by many, many people for help. I would not ask this favor if I did not believe it could help make a difference for a good man.

Thank you so much for considering this appeal. And thank you for all you have done to help Mr. Gilbert already.

Should you choose to contact Governor Paterson during the next few days, you can reach him at the executive office at: [redacted]

With warmest regards,

Michael Ratner

President of the Center for Constitutional Rights