By Jon Schuppe
MANHATTAN — As his years went by in prison, Thomas Hagan came to realize that the things that motivated him to kill Malcolm X were completely wrong.
He left the Nation of Islam but remained a Muslim. He studied a lot of history and sociology. And he decided that he’d been lied to.
In an interview with state Parole Board officials earlier this month, Hagan said he was a “very young man, a very uneducated man,” when he plotted to murder Malcolm X, according to transcripts obtained by DNAinfo.
And he said he's sorry.
“I’ve had a lot of time, a heck of a lot of time to think about it,” Hagan said. “Being more educated in terms of social events and so forth, I understand a lot better the dynamics of movements and what can happen inside movements and conflicts that can come up, but I have deep regrets about my participation in that.”
After that March 3 interview, the board agreed to set him free. He is expected to be released from a minimum-security prison in Harlem on April 28.
Hagan was a 22-year-old rank-and-file member of the Nation of Islam when Malcolm X split from the group and went public with allegations that its leader, Elijah Muhammad, was fathering children out of wedlock.
Nation of Islam ministers responded with charges that Malcolm X was a lying hypocrite, and was planning armed attacks against group members. So Hagan and a couple others got together in New Jersey and planned to assassinate him.
On Feb. 21, 1965, they gunned Malcolm X down as he spoke at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.
“Of course, as we know as history has revealed, a lot of what [Malcolm X] was saying was true,” Hagan said, according to the transcripts.
Parole won’t change Hagan’s life dramatically. Since 1989, he has been allowed to leave prison on a work-release program in which he spends several days working and visiting his wife and children in Brooklyn.
In prison, Hagan obtained a master’s degree in sociology. He hopes to become a substance-abuse counselor when he gets out. He has also been volunteering at a mosque.
State authorities would not reveal where exactly Hagan lives or works. That information was blacked out of transcripts provided to DNAinfo.
In 2008, Hagan was living in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and working in a fast-food restaurant, according to the New York Post.
Hagan has maintained that the two other Nation of Islam members who were convicted with him — Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Kahlil Islam — were not part of the plot. In his parole interview, Hagan repeated claims he made in a 1970s affidavit that his accomplices were two other men who were never charged.
Aziz and Islam were paroled years ago.