Interview by Geno McGahee
In 1974, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s autobiography: “The 16th Round” was released to the public and documented his side of the story, stating that he was falsely accused by a racist system and was a victim his entire life of bigotry. The book was a major success. A new trial was granted when a recorded statement from one of the eyewitnesses, Al Bello, was withheld by the prosecution, and that’s when the celebrities appeared, all supporting this wrongfully accused former boxer. Bob Dylan wrote and performed a song entitled: “Hurricane” and covered the incident at the Lafayette Grill from Carter’s perspective. Muhammad Ali and Burt Reynolds were also behind the former middleweight and it seemed that a great injustice was about to be undone.
Rubin Carter and John Artis were released on bail in between trials and the public support and backing by many of the biggest names in Hollywood and the sports world, gave the duo a lot of momentum that would quickly disappear when controversy hit. Carolyn Kelley was one of the biggest supporters of the “Hurricane,” and the leader of the Carter Defense Fund. She met up with Carter and claims that she was beaten into unconsciousness at the hands of the former middleweight, which is a claim that he denies. He has stated that it was extortion and that he tried to work with her, but her demands were unreasonable. Whatever the case, when this news leaked to the press, the public support and the celebrities disappeared. Carter and Artis would quietly go into the second trial and be found guilty yet again.
In 1985, Judge Lee Sarokin released both Rubin Carter and John Artis, stating that the prosecution appealed to racism over reason. It is such an emotional story that you want to believe that an innocent man was released after a racist system sent him away. That is the story that the majority of the press has ran with and that the majority of the public believes to be true. Cal Deal has bravely faced off against the masses and has presented a compelling case creating some doubt of Carter’s innocence, as you will see in the third part of this RSR exclusive interview.
GM: A young man named Lesra Martin and his Canadian adoptive family of sorts played a very big part in the release of Carter. How effective were they and what was their relationship to Carter.
As far as I understand, they had absolutely nothing with getting him out of prison. His lawyers did it. He got out on procedural errors…technical stuff, and that’s how he got released. He wasn’t released on anything that they found in their alleged investigation. Let me tell you about them. I was on a coast to coast radio show in Canada. I told them that if we were interviewed at the same time, we wouldn’t get anywhere and that we should be interviewed separately. They came on and said that everything on my website was false. That’s it. They basically said that I’m a liar, a deceiver, a cheat, and that I can’t be trusted. For them to say that about me and I’m a pretty ethical person, without even knowing me, told me everything that I need to know about them. You don’t say something like that unless you have a basis of it, and they don’t because everything that I say is true. It just showed what kind of people that they are, and there’s nothing that I’m aware of in their so-called investigation that cleared Carter. They’ll play on that Monaco-Polara thing, but what somebody says at a hearing years later versus what you say within in hour of the crime. What are you going to put your confidence in?
GM: You mentioned earlier that Rubin Carter was offered a lie detector test and he refused. Has he ever taken a lie detector test?
Yes, that morning of the crime and Desimone told him that he passed it, but I talked with the guy that gave him the test in 2000 and he told me personally, that his son had found my website and found his report on my website, and he said that that was the first time that I have seen that report in twenty years. He said that Carter definitely failed the test and he said, he had the test in his office and one day that there was this big name polygraph operator that showed up and he showed him the test. I didn’t tell him who it was and the polygraph operator took one look and said that he man that took that test was lying, without question. Carter refused our offer for a lie detector test and other offers from other people, and then, and I’ve never heard of this anytime before or anytime since in any other case.
The prosecutor writes a letter, and this is before their second trial, and this is really incredible, through their attorneys. It was very official…very legal. It was proper. The letter said this: I want to give you a lie detector test. This is 1976, before the second trial, and it said that I’m going to give you both a lie detector test. If you fail that test, we will not use it against you. We will not use it at trial. If you pass the test, I will let you go. The case is over. You’re free. If he passes the lie detector test, he goes free, and they refused to take it. So, as Humphreys said: “So much for their claims of innocence.”
GM: Did they give a reason why they refused to take it?
They were claiming that they passed on already, which they didn’t. They were going to be released on a triple murder charge if they passed the lie detector test and they refused. So what does that tell you? It defies common sense for an innocent person to do that. There are just so many things about this case that people just don’t know about, and are very persuasive.
GM: In the movie: “Hurricane,” Rubin Carter was released by a judge that stated that the state used “racism over reason.” Was he released because of racism?
What you have to remember about Judge Sarokin, who used to be known as “let-them-go Lee” because he would let people go so often, he was not familiar with the details of the case. The prosecutor gave him a two-hundred page brief that outlined the case and explained everything for him, but he didn’t want to read it. He told them to come back with fifty pages. They had to go back and redo their briefs in a short period of time and cut two-hundred pages down to fifty. Then, he puts out his opinion, and it is full of factual errors. On my website, this guy from Virginia, went through Sarokin’s opinion and shows the factual inaccuracies. He didn’t understand the facts of the case. He gave credibility where it shouldn’t have been given, and scouted other things that shouldn’t have been scouted, and it seems that he had his mind made up before all of the facts came in. For him to make an accusation of racism against a guy like Burrell Humphreys…an NAACP member, that has fought for blacks, a racist? How do you call the black investigators that worked on the case racist? How do you call the black witnesses that said they lied for Carter, racist? It doesn’t make sense. There are so many people that are involved in that case for it to be a racist conspiracy. There is no way a racist prosecution would have lasted this long. Somebody would have talked after all these years. Sarokin didn’t know the facts and bought the Carter line like everyone else.
GM: In the movie, he is shown beating Joey Giardelllo, but being the victim of crooked judges costing him the middleweight championship. I am aware that Giardello sued the producers of the movie. Now, why did Giardello sue and what was the outcome of the case?
I saw the fight. Joey Giardello’s son sent it to me, and I have never seen it before and I’m not a boxing expert and I looked at the fight through the eyes of an observer that doesn’t know boxing, and I just wanted to say that my impression was that Carter did very well, but not well enough to beat the champion. I think that you need to really beat the champion, not just edge him. I don’t even think that he edged him. He did get him bloody and Carter himself has publicly admitted that Giardello won, which put that issue to rest. The people that scored the fight all said that Giardello won. The consensus is that, and with Carter’s admission, is that Giardello won it. The fact that Giardello sued the movie producers and ended up with a big, fat settlement, over that depiction of him tells you about the fight.
What boxing fans need to remember is at the time of the murders, Carter’s boxing career was on the downhill slide. He was 7-7-1 in the last year and a half or so of his career. For Bob Dylan to say that he could have been champion of the world, implies that when he was arrested that he was on the brink of becoming the champion. To me, and I’m not a boxing expert, is a lot of nonsense. How could he have been champion when he’s not beating people that are not particularly great?
I think that the decline in his boxing career contributed to his state of mind on the night of the murders. He’s fading and he must realize it and then you have the racially charged times. The day that the murders took place was a Saturday morning. The day before, the phrase “black power” was coined. That’s just to show you the racial times. I think that it may have been on the front page the day that the murders took place. Then you’ve got the revenge motive. The black man shot by the white guy, and the black neighborhood all riled up. There was a lot of unhappiness about the Waltz Inn murder. You put this all together and with Carter being a naturally violent person, it’s not that much of a stretch to believe that somebody that violent would do something that crazy. It was his way of re-establishing himself as a big shot.
GM: Have John Artis and Rubin Carter had any legal troubles since being released?
Yes. John Artis was arrested for cocaine distribution was the charge, I think. It is my understanding that he was selling or involved in the distribution of cocaine to high school kids. He was arrested and prosecuted and I think that he went back to jail, and now he’s supposedly working with troubled youths in Virginia. Carter was set free on bail and Muhammad Ali came to pick him up on March of 1976. Ali actually bailed him out in March and then in April, Carter went down by invitation to Ali’s fight in Maryland and that’s where he beat the crap out of a woman that was his main defender in New Jersey that was in charge of his defense group in New Jersey. He beat her, and they kept it quiet for months, and there was a reporter named Chuck Stone that got wind of the story and he broke it months after the incident occurred. After that, people realized that Carter wasn’t what he was put up to be.
He wasn’t the good guy that everyone thought that he was, and that is why at his trial in 1976, when you had all these celebrities that allowed him to use their name…Burt Reynolds and Bob Dylan wrote him a song, and Ali, and all these people, and not one of them came to the trial to show him support. Everyone bailed out on him and I think that incident had opened their eyes. I don’t know if he had any contact with Ali after than incident and Dylan doesn’t perform the song anymore.
GM: Is there any other piece of evidence that you believe to be important in this case?
Here’s an example of something that he used repeatedly and probably still does: the speeding white car. According to Carter, the cops saw a speeding white car and they chased it and they lost it. The car looked like the murder car. Hearing that, you think that the murderers got away, except that it’s not true, but if you look at his book, it’s in there, and Hirsch probably has it in there too.
What happened, and this is where that getaway map becomes important. These two cops heard the radio call about the murders. They are heading North, going in the general direction of the murder scene, when they see this speeding white car flash right in front of them with a dark colored car behind it. Now they just heard the call…it was a murder, white car with two blacks in it. They make a spot decision. They decide that this car, which has out of state plates, is heading for the bridge, trying to leave town. Rather to chase it directly, they decided to loop around and cut it off at the road that left the city and that’s what they did. They didn’t chase it. They tried to intercept it at the bridge. They go up to the bridge as fast as they can and there’s nothing there. They look around and they go into East Paterson and look onto this long stretch of highway that you can see a long distance and they see nothing.
As they come back into Paterson, what do they see? A white car that looks just like the one that they had just seen, coming from a side street, going from right to left in front of them. Guess who’s in the car? It was Carter and at that spot, where they saw that car crossing Broadway. If you go one block to the right, and up that street, it’s Eddie Rawls’ house. The car was going slowly because they didn’t have any guns anymore, I’m sure. They pull the car over. Remember that Bello has seen Carter face to face at the murder scene, so Carter has reason to believe that cops are looking for him specifically. Now this is Carter’s car, and he’s driving the short distance, supposedly to his home to get some more money. They pull it over. Where’s Carter? Is he in the driver’s seat? No. Is he in the passenger seat? No, this local drunk is. He is in the backseat hiding, laying down below the windows. He claimed that he was tired. Now this is man at the peak of fitness and was a night owl, that was driving a mile to go home and he had to lie down in the back seat? You have to apply common sense here, and so I think that he was lying down to keep his face out of view because he was spotted at the murder scene.
The cops that pull them over see three guys instead of two that they were looking for and let them go. They go directly from that spot to the murder spot and listening to Al Bello and listening in. They hear Bello describing the getaway car and think: “Holy sh*t, we just let it go.” They knew immediately that that was the car. So they left the Lafayette Grill, looking for that car specifically, and Carter has had a chance to go home and now he’s going back to the Nightspot, within blocks of the Lafayette Grill and right down 18th street, on the other side of the Nightspot, they find Carter’s car and pull him over and that’s how he got caught. It was only 30 minutes after the murders. They pulled him over, let him go, hear the description and find him and bring him in.
Desimone actually let him go because he knew that Carter was too popular to run. He’d be recognized and he wanted to have the strongest possible case and that’s why he let him go. Only after Bello got nervous after being threatened by Carter’s friends that he actually talked to the Paterson police…not even the Desimone group. That’s when the case broke and they finally had enough that they were beyond any doubt and that’s when they arrest Carter. It wasn’t this “let’s frame a black guy and throw him in the jail.” They did a lot to do it right.
GM: Is there anything else that you would like to add regarding your coverage of this case and to the people that are just realizing that there are two sides to this story?
Carter counts on you not knowing squat about the case and most people don’t check out anything he says and he banks on that and ninety-nine percent of the time, he is right. I was the one percent who went back and questioned him and I was looked down upon me at the time and other press people looked down on my like I was nuts. I believe that he is guilty and everyone else is running around saying that he’s innocent. A New York Times reporter actually kissed Carter the second time that he was convicted and that doesn’t scream of press keeping its distance. It just goes to show how close the press was to him and the press just bought it. The New York Times was part of it and it was a shame that they did that. They bought it hook, line, and sinker and it makes it harder for me to make other people look at the other side of the story and to take me seriously.
One last thing. Al Bello on the morning of the murders, he sees this murder scene. He is all excited and shows up at Ken Kellog’s apartment and he asked Bello: “What happened,” and Bello said: “Carter shot up the whole bar.” Carter shot up the whole bar. That’s not police intimidation. That’s not racist conspiracy. That’s one friend talking to another friend and Ken Kellog testified to that in front of a grand jury in 1966, I think. It’s on the record. I think that that’s very enlightening…what one friend tells another.
WRITER’S FINAL THOUGHTS
I want to first thank Cal Deal for the time and encourage everyone to check out his website by There is a video that is very interesting, showing you the getaway route along with other points in regards to positioning of the witnesses as opposed to the movie’s point of view. No matter where you stand on the case, it is an interesting site and put together very well.
The Rubin “Hurricane” Carter story is a fascinating tale and one that will probably live on forever, but how much of it is true and how much of it is fiction to make Carter’s character look more favorable then it was is debatable. I have to say that my initial belief that the former middleweight boxer was innocent has been rattled by Cal Deal’s website. There are certain facts, such as the bullets found in the car, the connection between Carter and the Waltz Inn incident, and the identification of both the car and the shooters by Al Bello and Patty Valentine, that certainly back up the case against Carter. Also, the hand written letter that Carter wrote to enforce an alibi that wasn’t there and the many witnesses for the defense that have admitted under oath that they lied are also big factors in this case. I do have a couple of reservations however before I proclaim Carter guilty. I am curious to know why Detective Desimone informed Carter that he passed the lie detector test if he did not. I don’t know what the motivation could be. If he was playing with “The Hurricane,” it may lend some credence to his claims of racism.
The movie “The Hurricane,” and his autobiography: “The 16th Round” seem to be bias and the question must be posed: If Rubin Carter is blurring the facts as he did in the Giardello bout, the pedophile that he stood up against, the racist detective that followed him since youth, and the facts of the triple murder in Paterson, New Jersey that night, is he fabricating his innocence. I will let you be the judge. I would like to invite Rubin “Hurricane” Carter for an interview, for his side of the story.