William 'Lefty' Gilday
We are saddened to hear from friends at MCI-Shirley that our friend
and comrade Lefty Gilday passed away two nights ago in the "Health
Services Unit." More information will follow.
Lefty was a revolutionary, pitcher, jail house lawyer extraordinaire.
He was a friend to all Behind the Wall who kept a sharp sense of
humor until health problems and medical neglect took their toll. I
believe Lefty was 82. (His parents lived until ages 99 and 102!) To
the end, the men at Shirley cared for him despite the hostility they
encountered from guards and "medical staff."
William 'Lefty' Gilday is a 60s radical sentenced to death for his
involvement in a bank expropriation while attempting to finance the
anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. Gilday is a former minor
league baseball player from A m e s b u r y, Massachusetts, who in
his early to mid-thirties was arrested on robbery charges. While
imprisoned he met up with Stanley Bond, a Vietnam helicopter pilot
also in jail for robbery. The two became friends, and after their
release, entered into the Student Tutor Education Program (STEP), a
program designed to help former inmates enter into university level education.
Gilday enrolled in Boston's Northeastern University with another
fellow inmate, Robert Valeri. Bond entered into Brandeis University.
It did not take long before the three former inmates got involved in
the student movements of the 1960s. William Gilday and friends became
involved in the radical group known as the Students for a Democratic
Society (SDS) and later moved into a militant offshoot of SDS, known
as the Weather Underground.
Gilday began to organize around students' rights and the anti-war
movement. During this period, the three met up with Susan Saxe,
Katherine Power and Michael Fleischer. The three were college
students from Brandeis University. According to the FBI, Gilday and
friends were a "radical, revolutionary group dedicated to attacking
the United States military system and undermining police powers."
The members engaged in an expropriation of funds from the Bell
Federal Savings and Loan Association in Philadelphia on September 1,
1970. They have also been connected with an assault on the National
Guard armory at Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 20, 1970,
which left the armory heavily damaged by fire and explosions.
Ammunition and a truck were seized during this action but were later
recovered by authorities.
The Boston Robbery
On September 23, 1970, members of the group entered the State Street
Bank and Trust Company in Boston with the intent to expropriate funds
to help finance the movement against the Vietnam War. The group
retrieved $26,585. As they left, a Boston police officer who had been
alerted by a silent alarm was shot and killed by a Thompson .45
caliber sub-machine gun.
Shortly after the incident, Boston police obtained warrants for two
college students, Susan Saxe and Katherine Power, and former convicts
Stanley Bond, Robert Valeri and William Gilday.
The five were charged with murdering the policeman during the
robbery. Robert Valeri was quickly apprehended. Stanley Bond was
apprehended at Grand Junction, Colorado, four days after the robbery
while boarding an airplane.
The hunt for Gilday was the largest manhunt in New England history,
with close to 3,000 police, game wardens, military troops and other
personnel involved. For eight days, Gilday was successful in evading
the authorities before being captured after a pursuit with police
cruisers and a helicopter. He was placed on the 'Most Wanted' list
approximately two hours prior to being arrested and by the time he
was placed in custody, there were a total of 69 indictments against him.
In 1972 Bond was killed in an explosion in Walpole State Prison. The
facts surrounding the explosion still remain in question. According
to the authorities, Bond was making an explosive that was to be used
during an attempted escape. Before the explosive could be used, it
went off, killing Stanley Ray Bond. Some have suggested that
authorities were aware of the planned escape and booby-trapped the
explosive to go off when handled. Bond's body was cremated and his
ashes were placed in Los Angeles National Cemetery at his mother's request.
Robert Valeri became a witness for the state against his accomplices.
He was sentenced to ten-to fifteen years in prison for manslaughter
and robbery, and after doing his time, was released. During his time
in prison, Valeri changed his name to Christopher Alexander and
served his time under that name.
Michael Fleischer, who was responsible for the actual shooting death
of the officer in September 1970, also became a witness for the
state. Fleischer had nine indictments totally dismissed after he
testified against Gilday and Saxe six years later.
With the help of the testimonies of Fleischer and Valeri, the
government was successful in framing the murder charge on William
Gilday rather than Michael Fleischer. Gilday was tried and found
guilty for the killing of the Boston police officer and was sentenced
to death. His sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment.
The FBI claimed Saxe and Power were able to elude authorities because
of the close relationships they developed within the women's
movement. FBI agents flooded the women's communities of Boston,
Philadelphia, Lexington (Kentucky), Hartford and New Haven. Their
conspicuous interrogation of hundreds of politically active women,
followed by highly publicized grand jury subpoenas and jailings,
wreaked havoc in health collectives and other vital projects.
Activists and potential supporters were scared off, and fear spread
across the country, hampering nationally organized women and lesbians.
In March of 1975, Susan Saxe was arrested in Philadelphia and served
seven years in prison before finally being released. After
twenty-three years on the run and five years on the 'Most Wanted'
list, Katherine Power was arrested in 1993 after turning herself in
to police. She was sentenced to eight to twelve years in prison and
was released in October of 1999.
Gilday was the only one still held captive. He was incarcerated in
MCI Shirley in Shirley, Massachusetts. He has had approximately nine
appeals, having gone to the Supreme Court twice. Despite his
imprisonment for thirty five years, Gilday remained steadfast in his
convictions for revolutionary change.
William 'Lefty' Gilday Presente!