NORMAN JEWISON'S FALSUMENTARY
"The Hurricane" Misleads
a Trusting Public
Norman Jewison's movie "The Hurricane" is a screenful of factual inaccuracies that
give a completely false impression of how the real events went
down -- from a grossly misleading depiction of the killers' getaway
to a completely ficticious and hideous portrayal of the key detective.
As propaganda for the deification of Rubin "Hurricane"
Carter, the movie succeeds brilliantly, but as an honest portrayal
of the events surrounding the murders, it is a miserable failure.
Instead of being considered for an Oscar, Mr. Jewison deserves
"The Oliver Stone Distortion of History Award."
The inaccuracy of the movie has eclipsed even the inaccuracy
of Bob Dylan's song "Hurricane,"
which, as it turns out, is an appropriate soundtrack for this
Here is a very incomplete, point-by-point look at how you've
been misled by this movie:
FALSE: The Police Emergency Phone
Call Log Was Faked to Frame Carter
THE MOVIE: A group of Canadians -- convinced of Carter's
innocence after reading the convicted triple murderer's book
-- find a telephone log indicating that the murders were reported
at 2:45, not 2:30. However, the paper appears to have been doctored,
and "Carter" says the"2.45" is in the handwriting
of the racist detective who is out to get him.
WHAT THIS IMPLIES: The movie claims that Carter left
the Nite Spot at 2:40 -- at least 10 minutes AFTER the murders
-- and the racist detective doctored the phone log to make it
appear that the murders occurred when Carter was "out on
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Moviegoers have really focused
on this bogus issue, and because I've received so many e-mails
about it, I'm providing some extra documentation.
Among the people with first-hand knowledge are Pat Valentine,
who phoned police to report the killings, and Jim Lawless, the
first police officer to arrive at the scene. Both told me there
is no question that the murders occurred at about 2:30.
Here is the sequence of events:
- Shortly before 2:30 a.m. -- Four people are shot in the Lafayette
- About 2:34 a.m. -- Pat Valentine calls police to report the
Eyewitness Al Bello also calls to report the
murders. The report is taken by telephone operator Jean Wall.
Police are notified by radio to look for a white car
with two "colored" occupants.
- 2:40 a.m. -- A white car containing Carter, Artis and a man
believed to be John "Bucks" Royster is stopped by Officers
Capter and DeChellis. Capter checks the registration and lets
them go because there are three blacks in the car instead of
two. He does this despite the fact that Carter is lying down
(hiding) in the back seat and could not be seen from the street.
- 3:00 a.m. -- After getting a more complete description of
the getaway car, Officers Capter and DeChellis apprehend Carter
and Artis and bring them to the murder scene for questioning.
- IMPORTANT UPDATE, AUGUST 2002:
Recently I inspected a copy of Detective DeSimone's notes from
his interview with telephone operator Jean Wall. Those notes
report -- in his handwriting -- that the time of the first phone
call was about 2:30, which is consistent with Wall's trial testimony
and the initial police report. [Click
here for more info.] Copies of those handwritten notes were
turned over to Carter's defense team before the second trial.
-- Cal Deal
- Original homicide report from the day of the murders showing
the time of the crime (2:30) and the time it was reported (2:34)
- Newspaper report published on the the day of the crime. It
says the murders occurred at 2:30 a.m. Read
- Sworn testimony of Sergeant Capter, who pulled over Carter
CAPTER: "Well, the first information we got was at
2:34 to look for a white car. ...That was from headquarters."
Q (BY MR. HULL): "Then you stopped this particular
car at about 2:40 a.m. at 14th Avenue and East 28th Street?"
- Operator Jean Wall testified in May 1967 that she received
the emergency call at "about 2:30 a.m." [View
original news story]
- News story reporting that Carter's key alibi witnesses lied
about his whereabouts at the time of the murders [Story
from 1976 trial]. Also see Carter's 1967 jailhouse letter
which outlines his alibi story for his alibi witnesses -- the
witnesses who later admitted perjury. [View
FALSE: The Gunmen Made a Quick, Shadowy Getaway
THE MOVIE: The gunmen run out of the front door of
the bar and through the shadows to their getway car, which is
waiting at the curb. Al Bello is shown watching the shadowy figures
from a distance.
WHAT THIS IMPLIES: Bello could never have identified
the gunmen with such a fleeting glimpse of darkened figures.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: The gunmen came out the front
door, turned to the right, walked around the corner and walked
down the sidewalk, laughing and talking loudly, according to
Bello's testimony. They were so brazen that Bello at first thought
they were gun-wielding cops. Only when he got to within 10 or
15 feet of them did Bello realize that they weren't cops. He
turned and ran for his life.
The getaway car, rather than being parked at the curb out
front, was in the westbound lane of the side street that ran
alongside the bar.
Pat Valentine was in a bay window overlooking that street.
She looked down to see them running away from the building, getting
into the car and driving off.
- Bello's statement to police, October1966
- Pat Valentine's testimony
FALSE: The Racist Detective Was Out to Get Carter
THE MOVIE: Lt. Vincent Della Pesca is a profanity-spewing
racist who is obsessed with nailing Rubin Carter. This obsession
begins after the 11-year-old Carter is picked up for stabbing
a white man, it intensifies when Della Pesca makes it clear he
is going to "get" Carter for the triple murders, and
it carries through to the day that Carter is released from prison
-- a hearing attended by the glowering racist detective.
WHAT THIS IMPLIES: Lt. Della Pesca's obsession led
to the framing of Rubin Carter.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Carter is now backpedaling on
this character. He now says it is a "composite" designed
to represent the racist system. But this alleged composite has
a name strikingly similar to that of the real detective in the
FILM: Lt. Vincent Della Pesca
REAL: Lt. Vincent DeSimone
The real detective was a man who worked hard to maintain an
excellent reputation. He was a religious man did not swear and
he had no contact with Rubin Carter before the murders. He was
a big teddy bear who was surprisingly sensitive, and was self-conscious
about his appearance because he had been shot in the face during
World War II.
On the day Carter was released from prison, Lt. DeSimone was
not sitting in the courtroom -- he had been dead for years and
was probably turning over in his grave at the thought of Carter
FALSE: Eyewitness Al Bello
Lied to Help Frame Carter
THE MOVIE: Al Bello is seen sitting in front of a tape
recorder while the racist Lieutenant promises not to prosecute
him for burglary and starts to ask him leading questions. Bello
plays along with this and tells the detective that it was Rubin
Carter he saw leaving the murder scene. Sitting behind Bello
is Arthur Dexter Bradley, Bello's burglary accomplice.
WHAT THIS IMPLIES: That Bello falsely accused Carter
to keep himself out of jail, and that Bello and Bradley coordinated
their stories in a conspiracy with police.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Bello actually identified Carter
to police eight days earlier, on Oct. 3, 1966. When Paterson
Detective LaConte saw Bello's car outside a bar, he went inside
to talk. Bello was rattled because he had been threatened to
keep his mouth shut. He told LaConte "You had the man and
let him go," and then said it was Rubin Carter. LaConte
arranged for Bello to meet later that day with his boss, Paterson
Police Sergeant Mohl. During that meeting, Bello again identified
Finally, they arranged for the taped meeting with Passaic
County Detective Lt. Vincent DeSimone, in which Bello identified
Carter for the third time. That was Oct. 11, 1966, and is the
interview portrayed inaccurately in the film. [Read
the complete transcript.] Other points:
- Bello did not know he was being taped during the interview,
according to the Carter and Artis arrest report. The recorder
was hidden. View page from police
report (This report was given to Carter's attorney before
the first trial.)
- Bradley was not sitting in the room; he was many miles away
at the Bordentown Reformatory.
- Bradley first identified Carter on Oct. 6, 1966 -- five days
BEFORE the taped interview with Bello. Bradley had been incarcerated
since his August 3, 1966 arrest for armed robbery and other charges.
He was serving time at the Bordentown Reformatory when he gave
his statement to detectives. Although he had no opportunity to
coordinate his story with Bello and had not seen him in months,
their detailed stories about what happened that night were the
- The burglary was unsuccessful, and police had no evidence
of the attempt other than Bello's own testimony, which could
not be used.
- Any "promises" made to Bello were to ensure that
his life would not be in danger if he testified against Carter.
[Read the complete transcript.]
- After Bello recanted his identification of Carter and Artis,
the prosecutors played the entire tape recording in open court
to discredit Bello's recantation. [TOP]
FALSE: Carter was Robbed of
the Middleweight Boxing Title
THE MOVIE: Carter beats Middleweight Champ Joey Giardello
to a puffy pulp, but the judges shock Carter by giving the victory
WHAT THIS IMPLIES: Carter was robbed of the boxing
title he deserved.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Here is how sports reporters
who were there saw the fight (from a story by Wallace Matthews
in The New York Post, January 2, 2000):
- Jerry Izenberg, Newark Star-Ledger: 10-5 Giardello
- Bob Lipsyte, New York Post, saw nothing wrong with the decision
- Jesse Abramson, a Hall of Fame writer, reported the ringside
press agreed with the call by a 3-1 ratio.
FALSE: The Racist Bar
THE MOVIE: The Lafayette Grill, where the murders occurred,
was a bar that welcomed blacks such as Louise and Avery Cockersham.
Mrs. Cockersham says they even ran a tab at the bar.
WHAT THIS IMPLIES: The prosecution's "racial revenge"
theory is false. The prosecutors believed that the murderers
went to a white bar where blacks weren't welcome to retaliate
for the killing of a black man earlier in the evening. The black
man was the stepfather of Carter's friend Eddie Rawls, and Carter
and Rawls were together just before the killings at a black bar
just a few blocks away. This is meant to discredit the theory
that provided the motive for the killings.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Blacks were not served at the
bar, according to Pat Valentine, who lived upstairs and knew
all the people at the Lafayette Grill.
Louise and Avery Cockersham would come in the side door, pick
up their drinks at the far end of the bar near the restrooms,
pay their bill and leave, Valentine said (in January 2000).
In the 1970s, Betty Panagia, the owner of the bar, told me
rather sheepishly that the bartender, Jim Oliver, was something
of a racist. She and Oliver were seeing each other at the time
of the killings. Oliver's spinal cord was severed by a shotgun
FALSE: Carter Rode in the Front Seat
THE MOVIE: It repeatedly shows Carter sitting up in
the passenger seat as police stop his car 10 minutes after the
murders. He's supposed to be on his way home from an innocent
WHAT THIS IMPLIES: Carter had nothing to hide, was
not afraid to be seen and was acting normally.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Carter stayed out of sight by
lying down on the back seat of the car. Was it because he knew
he had just been seen leaving the murder scene by Bello and thought
police would be looking for him? Or was this boxer in peak physical
condition so tired from partying that he just had to lie down
for the short ride home?
The man in the front seat was actually John "Bucks"
FALSE: The Lily-White Jury Was In On The Plot
THE MOVIE: Carter's jury of his "peers" is
so white that it evokes snickers from the audience. The whitest
juror of them all gets up and delivers the "guilty"
verdict with a subtle, self-satisfied sneer.
WHAT THIS IMPLIES: Paterson's white racist justice
system, aided and abetted by an all-white jury, unjustly convicted
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Two blacks served on the jury
in Carter's second trial, which is virtually ignored by the film.
The jury was selected in Hudson County, not Passaic County where
the crimes occurred.
FALSE: Rubin Carter, the squeaky-clean
In the movie, he comes home from the service, orders a
soda pop and falls in love. He was actually discharged
after 21 months because of his "unfitness" for
military service. That discharge followed four courts-martial.
(Remember, Carter calls this movie "absolutely true.")
FALSE: Young Rubin Stabbed an
Attacker to Get Free
THE MOVIE: After defending a childhood pal from a molester,
11-year-old Rubin is grabbed by the man and lifted into the air.
He stabs the man several times in the shoulder to get free.
WHAT THIS IMPLIES: That brave Rubin was a good kid
just doing what he had to do. This sequence is preceded by scenes
focusing on the mean streets of Paterson, an apparent attempt
to explain why an 11-year-old would be carrying a knife.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: On Feb. 4, 2000, Paul Mulshine
reported in The Newark Star-Ledger:
"Onscreen, for example, [Carter] is sent to a reformatory
as a young boy after breaking a bottle over the head of a child
molester who is menacing his friend. In real life, he was sent
to the reformatory for breaking a bottle over the head of a man
from whom he stole a wristwatch and $55.
"These two events have one thing in common -- the bottle.
"This, apparently, is what 'based on a true story' means."
From the Saturday Evening Post, 1964:
"Rubin was a kind of schoolboy Mount Vesuvius -- his
early history is dotted with minor thefts, street fighting and
school incorrigibility -- before he erupted with a vengeance
at the age of 11 and was sent to Jamesburg reformatory for atrocious
"That's right," he says, "atrocious assault
at age eleven. I stuck a man with my knife. I stabbed him everywhere
but the bottom of his feet." [TOP]
FALSE: Racist Cops Used Heavy-Handed
THE MOVIE: Police cars surround Carter's car as he's
detained for questioning.
WHAT THIS IMPLIES: The racist cops were going to teach
that you-know-what a thing or two with a show of force.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Officers Capter and DeChellis
are the ones who brought Carter and Artis in for questioning.
Capter testified that he had to get another squad car to help.
"I pulled them [Carter and Artis] over to the side on Broadway
and then I got another squad car to come over," he said.
"I put the other squad car on East 18th Street facing in
a northerly direction. I had Mr. Artis to turn his car around
in order to follow the squad car over to East 18th and Lafayette
Street [the Lafayette Grill]. I told the car in front to make
a left turn off of 18th Street into Lafayette and they [Carter
and Artis] were following him."
Elsewhere in the testimony, Capter refers to one other police
car: "I asked them to turn the car around and follow the