Why Judge Larner rejected
Bello and Bradley recantations

Published in The Herald-News, Passaic-Clifton, N.J., 1975

Herald-News Staff Writer

Alfred Bello and Arthur Bradley say they lied.

Superior Court Judge Samuel Larner says he doesn't believe them. But why?

That is spelled out in a 46-page opinion by Larner, who rejected the request of convicted murderers Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and John Artis for a new trial.

In that opinion, Larner raises an important point. Bradley was imprisoned when Bello first identified Carter and Artis for authorities. The two witnesses had no chance to concoct a consistent story, he said, and they gave their statements to police independently. Yet those two statements meshed. They did not conflict.

CARTER AND Artis were convicted of a 1966 triple murder at Paterson's Lafayette Grill. Both are serving life sentences.

During the 1967 trial, Bello and Bradley were star witness for the prosecution. Bello said he saw Carter and Artis leave the Grill immediately after the murders. Bradley saw only Carter. Both recanted those identifications last year. Both have long criminal records.

This is how Bello's testimony at that trial came about, according to uncontradicted testimony at the new trial hearing:

June 17, 1966 -- The morning of the murders, Bello was question but did not identify Carter and Artis. He said later he withheld the information because he feared physical harm from Carter or his friends. He also feared incriminating himself. At the time of the murders, he and Arthur Bradley were attempting to break into the Ace Sheet Metal Co., one block from the Lafayette Grill.

July 1966 -- Bello first reveals that Bradley was with him on the night of the murders.

Aug. 4, 1966 -- Bello is questioned but discloses nothing more.

Oct. 3, 1966 -- Paterson Det. Donald LaConte sees Bello enter a tavern and goes in. In their conversation, Bello blurts out, "I'm all messed up since this shooting happened ... I'm scared." He said a black woman had approached him and warned him not to talk about the shootings.

LaConte pressed for the names of the killers.

"You had the man and let him go," Bello said before identifying Carter.

Why had he waited so long to make that statement?

"I'm scared. Rubin Carter has friends. I have a brother who is in State's Prison. I have to think of him," Bello said.

Later that day, Bello met with LaConte and Detective Sat. Robert Kohl in a Paterson diner. He told of seeing Carter and Artis come out of the Lafayette Grill after the shootings. He said Bradley also saw Carter.

Oct. 11, 1966 -- Lt. Vincent DeSimone of the Passaic County prosecutor's office questions Bello. Bello's statement was "substantially similar to his trial testimony, including unequivocal identification of Carter and Artis," Larner wrote.

Oct. 14, 1966 -- Bello gives a formal statement at the prosecutor's office under oath. "I am positive it was Rubin Carter," he said. Carter and Artis are arrested.

Bello now says that he lied when he identified Carter and Artis because he hoped to collect $10,500 in reward money and because the police promised to help him if he got arrested again. He says his false testimony was "molded" by law enforcement officials. He saw the killers, but naming Carter and Artis was "a grave mistake," he reportedly said..

IN HIS OPINION, Larner notes that Bello singled out DeSimone "as the one law enforcement officer who pressured him into lying at (the) trial." However, Bello identified Carter and Artis many months before the trial "and at a time before there could have been pressures from Lt. DeSimone," Larner said.

During the recantation hearing, Bello claimed two other law enforcement people helped develop his false testimony. In one case he failed to support the charge and in the second case he admitted it was untrue, according to the judge.

Bello had no memory problems when he recanted his identification of Carter and Artis, Larner said.

"However, when pressed on cross-examination on significant matters which might cast doubt on the credibility of his recantation, his memory became poor and he constantly resorted to the ploy, 'I don't recall!'" he said.

KENT KELLOGG, a friend of Bello's, testified at the Carter-Artis trial. He said on the morning of the murders he asked Bello what happened at the Lafayette Grill.

"Rubin Carter shot up the whole bar," Bello told him, according to Kellogg's unrecanted testimony.

Larner also notes the naturalness of the context in which Bello's original testimony came about. He points out that DeSimone frequently cautioned Bello to tell the truth.

BRADLEY had been at Bordentown for two months when Bello first talked. His 1967 trial testimony came about as follows, according to testimony:

August 3, 1966 -- Bradley is arrested in connection with a series of robberies and burglaries.

Oct. 3, 1966 -- Bello identifies Carter as one of the killers and says Bradley can identify him also.

Oct. 6, 1966 -- Bradley is interviewed by police at Bordentown. He is hesitant about identifying Carter but when a prison guard leaves the room, he does so. Bradley says he fears for his safety if his statement becomes known. He asks to be transferred to another prison.

Oct. 14, 1966 -- Bradley gives a sworn statement at the prosecutor's office identifying Carter. "It contains in substance the facts to which he testified at the trial and which he now rejects as untrue," Larner wrote.

Bradley says he lied about Carter in 1966-67 because he had many criminal charges pending against him at the time. He said he hoped police would go easy on him in those case because of his testimony.

Instead of recanting simply his identifications of Carter, however, Bradley recanted his entire testimony. That included his description of his movements at the time of the shootings. He originally said he ran to the Lafayette Grill after hearing the shots and saw Carter leaving the Grill with a shotgun.

Larner points out one problem with Bradley's blanket recantation: Bello's unrecanted testimony.

While Bello says he lied when he identified Carter and Artis, he says the rest of his testimony is true. That includes his descriptions of Bradley's actions. Bradley now says he never did the things Bello says he did.

For the first time, according to the record, their testimony does not mesh.

Why the recantations?

Larner believes Bello recanted because law enforcement officials didn't help him get the $10,500 reward "and because DeSimone failed to exert himself to assist Bello in connection with subsequent criminal involvements."

Also, "it is manifest" that Bello and Bradley fear for their safety if they should be jailed again, the judge said. They fear Carter could "wreak retribution" through his power and influence among inmates in the prisons, Larner explained.

"The ring of truth is totally absent in the recantations of both witnesses," Larner concludes.

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