Herald Sun, Edition 1 - FIRST
MON 18 SEP 2000, Page 020
"This is the man who
stood next to Nelson Mandela and gave us a morality lesson. What
an insult to Mandela."
Hurricane Carter a victim
of racism? There's another side to the story
By ANDREW BOLT
GOOD on the boys of Trinity Grammar for bringing Nelson Mandela
teach us about reconciliation.
But it's the other celebrity invited to their World Reconciliation
at Colonial Stadium a week ago who, sadly, taught us all another
Rubin ``Hurricane'' Carter was flown in by the event's promoter,
robber Graeme Alford, to join Mandela in lecturing us on kindness.
Carter seemed right for the job. After all, he is the black American
ex-boxer who was jailed for murdering three strangers in a bar,
only to find
himself famous when Bob Dylan began to sing of him as:
The man that authorities came to blame, For somethin' that
he never done.
That was in 1975. With the help of Dylan, Muhammad Ali and
a posse of
Hollywood celebrities, Carter fought for his freedom. And in
1985, a judge
at last let him go, accusing prosecutors of using ``racism rather
Since then, Carter has been hailed as a noble victim of American
has addressed the United Nations. Hollywood last year even made
a hero of
him in The Hurricane, a film of his life.
Newspapers here hailed him a ``civil rights champion'' and
``victim of a
Anyway, that's the Carter legend. That's the story most of
us want to
And here's where our real lesson starts -- a lesson in how
make heroes of villains. In how truth is so easily killed for
Rubin Carter was a child of a decent family, but was a bully
in school and
was often arrested for thieving.
A T 14 he was sent to reform school for splitting a man's
head with a bottle
and robbing him. (The film pretends he was protecting a friend
He was later booted out of the army after four courts-martial
and was soon
back in jail. He wrote that when he was finally let out in 1957,
just unleashed a walking, ticking, short-fused time bomb set
And, yes, a month later he bashed two men and was sent back to
he beat up a badly handicapped prisoner.
Psychologists warned he suffered ``grandiose paranoid delusions''
and was a
``sociopath'' who was ``extremely dangerous''.
As Carter himself wrote: ``I wanted to be the Administrator
of Justice, the
Revealer of Truth, the Inflicter of All Retribution.'' Indeed,
at the height
of his boxing fame, he boasted to the Saturday Evening Post that
he and a
friend ``used to shoot at folks'', and warned: ``If you mess
with me I'm
going to try to kill you.''
FREE again, Carter concentrated on his boxing and fought for
a world title
in 1964. The Hurricane typically claims racist boxing judges
robbed him, but
every sportswriter who covered the fight agreed he was beaten
by a better
The law judge who eventually freed Carter was to claim that
by 1966 the
boxer was still ``a contender for the middleweight crown'', but
he must have
been conned by Dylan wailing how He coulda been the champion
In fact, Carter was on the slide, having won just seven of
his last 15
Then on June 16 that year, a white man walked into Carter's
favorite bar in
New Jersey and blasted the black barman with a shotgun.
Carter was a friend of the victim's stepson and quickly heard
of the murder.
He later admitted angry blacks at the bar had talked of revenge.
said Carter sped off searching for his guns.
Just hours later, at 2.30 am, two black men walked into a
white bar down the
road and blasted the white barman -- a known racist -- with a
also shot the three drinkers, one a grandmother.
A THIEF called Alfred Bello saw the killers, one of whom he
identified as Carter, leave the bar and hop into a new, white
Within 10 minutes, police pulled over a new, white car. But when
recognised the famous boxer, who was lying on the back seat,
they let it go.
It was only when Bello told them minutes later that the killers'
had distinctive butterfly tail lights and blue and yellow interstate
that the police realised Carter's was the one they were searching
They soon found it again and brought it to the scene. A woman
who had seen
the killers drive off identified it.
That morning -- with a reporter watching and before ballistics
identified the murder weapons -- a detective also found a shotgun
bullet in Carter's car. They matched those used by the killers,
was convicted of murder.
BUT then Hollywood got interested, and Bello swore he hadn't
seen Carter at
the crime scene after all.
So Carter got a retrial, but the jury soon heard why Bello
had changed his
mind -- he'd been offered cash by Carter supporters. Then four
alibi witnesses from the first trial admitted they had been told
to lie. The
second jury promptly convicted him again.
But in 1985 the very liberal Judge Lee ``Let `Em Go'' Sarokin
set aside the
convictions in a controversial ruling in which he mis-stated
His main point was that the prosecutor (who was in fact a
lawyer) had been racist in suggesting the murders were a payback
killing of the black barman. He said this could have inflamed
jury, without explaining how -- given that it comprised whites
But his decision made the judge look so good that he asked if
he could play
himself in The Hurricane.
Of course, it's quite possible Carter is innocent. But is
he still the right
man to preach to us about reconciliation?
While on bail for his second trial, he beat Carolyn Kelley,
the (black) head
of his Carter Defence Fund, so badly that she took a month to
``He's Satan, and Satan can fool a lot of people,'' she says.
HIS private life remains stormy, and he recently married for
time. His son this year claimed Carter refused to help him when
jailed for bashing his girlfriend, and that they hadn't spoken
And this is the man who stood next to Nelson Mandela and gave
us a morality
What an insult to Mandela, and to us. But what an unexpectedly
-- if a sobering one -- for the fine, generous and trusting boys