Bribe Offers, Perjury and the
Recantation of Al Bello

After Judge Sarokin set aside Rubin Carter's triple murder conviction, the Prosecutor's Office filed an appeal. This is the portion of their brief that deals with the recantation of eyewitnesses Bello and Bradley. It outlines he involvement of Fred Hogan, a public employee who worked for a Public Defender's Office, but who also had a financial interest in Rubin Carter's book at the time he approached Bello about recanting, and Selwyn Raab, a New York Times reporter.

Recantation: In September 1974, seven years after the first trial, the defense obtained an affidavit from Mr. Bello in which he stated that his identification of the defendants Carter and Artis was a mistake, that he had identified the wrong persons, and that he had been pressured and confused into his trial testimony by the prosecution and the police (22aA 4866-74). This recantation was solicited from Bello by public defender investigator Fred Hogan and journalists Selwyn Raab and Hal Levinson. The defense moved for a new trial and surprisingly did not produce any of these three people as witnesses at the recantation hearing. The presiding judge determined that the recantation was untrue. State v. Carter, 136 N.J. Super. 271 (Cty. Ct. 1974). The district court does not mention this ruling.

The State learned from Alfred Bello the circumstances behind the recantation after Professor Leonard Harrelsons polygraph examination of Bello in August 1976. In the period of less than two months prior to retrial, the State receovered considerable evidence, long known to the defense, to confirm Alfred Bellos explanation of how the recantation came about. Alfred Bello explained how he was visited in jail by Hogan, Raab and Levinson who were soliciting his recantation. Bello said that Hogan offered him money if he would recant. Hogan told him he had a "piece" of Rubin Carters book and that Bello could get a "piece" if he recanted (22aA 4834-41).

The prosecution produced evidence to confirm the fact that public official Hogan had a financial interest in Rubin Carter. Philip Salinardi, the treasurer of The Viking Press, produced a contract between his company and the defendant Rubin Carter for the publication of the defendants book The Sixteenth Round. The contract contained the incredible revelation that Fred Hogan was designed therein as the agent for the defendant Rubin Carter. Mr. Salinardi further testified that $10,000 of advance money was given to (public official) Hogan in his capacity as the defendant Carters agent (25aA 5565-68). The most startling relevation came when Mr. Hogan admitted that he listed the $10,000 as income on his (Hogans) tax return (37aA 8490-95). This man paid taxes on Rubin Carters money.

Fred Hogan was not a private investigator. He was a public official. This $10,000 belonged to a client of the Public Defender. Mr. Hogan could produce no documentation to account for how he disbursed the funds. If he was acting on behalf of the defendant Carter with regard to the receipt of this money, he served in a fiduciary capacity and certainly should have records to account for his disbursements.

On the witness stand Fred Hogan became trapped by his own efforts to withhold evidence and conceal the truth. At the 1976 trial, Fred Hogan was called as a defense witness on December 9, 1976. On the witness stand, he produced typewritten reports of his meetings with Alfred Bello at the Passaic County Jail in 1973 and 1974. Mr. Hogan testified that he prepared the typewritten reports the evening before, i.e., December 8, 1976. Originally, he said the typewritten reports were prepared from handwritten notes which was discarded (37aA 8507-13). However, when pressed by the trial court, Mr. Hogan admitted that although he had said the original notes had been discarded, they might still be available. He assured the trial court that the typed reports had been coped "verbatim" from the original notes (37aA 8540-41). The typewritten notes of Mr. Hogan were marked D-332 (37aA 8528). They were not returned to Mr. Hogan when he left court on December 9, 1976. They were retained by the prosecution with the approval of the court.

Two days later, public official Fred Hogan returned to the witness stand for further cross-examination. He had retrieved his original notes (39aA 8870-73). Mr. Hogan is exposed. His original notes state that Alfred Bello would testify for the highest bidder and that $20,000 was mentioned. This information was withheld from his typewritten notes and would never had come out before the jury if the trial court had not expressed outrage and directed Mr. Hogan to produce his original notes.

At the time of the Harrelson polygraph examination in August of 1976 when Alfred Bello told the prosecution about how he came to recant his identifications of Carter and Artis, he (Alfred Bello) didnt know the prosecution would uncover the contract at The Viking Press and locate the canceled checks for $10,000. He didnt know what was in Fred Hogans notes.

Hal Levenson was initially called to the stand by the defense on December 10, 1976 (38aA 8800). Mr. Levenson indicated that he had records and notes regarding his involvement in this case. He selectively brought to court certain of the documents (38aA 8800-8801). He was excused from the stand at that point to permit him to go to Maryland to retrieve his notes as directed by the court and to permit him his request to consult with an attorney (38aA 8801-19).

In the interim, the defense called Selwyn Raab as a witness. Mr. Raab had refused to testify at the recantation hearing, according to defense attorney Myron Beldock (38aA 8823). Mr. Raab testified that he had no recollection of any conversation with Hal Levenson about Alfred Bello asking for money (41aA 9508). Selwyn Raab stated that it would have been very significant to him if Alfred Bello had talked to Fred Hogan about money in exchange for his testimony (41aA 9508-09), and he (Raab) would have looked into it (41aA 9509). Mr. Raab was definite: "Nobody told me anything about an offer of money or a request for money" (41aA 9510).

Hal Levensons diary (located in Maryland) noted at least 30 conversations with Hogan in the five month period ending in August of 1974. When Mr. Levenson returned, he testified that Selwyn Raab was his superior and that, during this investigation, he reported to Mr. Raab and kept him "closely advised" (44aA 10319). Hal Levensons diary showed Mr. Raabs testimony was false. Mr. Levensons records showed notations for November 21, 1973 and November 23, 1973 with a reference that, Bello could cut Carter loose for $20,000 (44aA 10312-15):

Question: And when you learned early in the investigation from Mr. Hogan that Mr. Bello had said that he could cut Carter loose for $10,000 or $20,000, you, of course, told Mr. Raab that, didnt you?

Answer: Yes, surely.

Question: So that Mr. Raab knew that early in the investigation Mr. Bello had indicated that he could cut Carter loose for $10,000 and $20,000?

Answer: I have no doubt that there was discussion of that item, sure.

Question: And you continued with the investigation after that, did you not, sir?

Answer: Yes.

Question: And you didnt advise anybody in law enforcement about that $10,000 to $20,000, did you? $10,000 to $20,000, did you?

Answer: No, sir.

Question: And when you later reported on this story, you didnt write that, did you, sir?

Answer: No.

The recantations provided the basis for an extensive public relations campaign on behalf of the defense directed in part by a large public relations firm from New York City headed by a man named George Lois. Two major fund-raising events were conducted just prior to the argument before the New Jersey Supreme Court. An event called the Night of the Hurricane (Rubin "Hurricane" Carter) was held at Madison Square Garden on December 8, 1975. A second event was held at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, on January 25, 1976, called the Night of the Hurricane Concert. Numerous celebrities appeared and entertained. The strength and majesty of our judicial system is founded on the exposition of the truth through a process of submission of evidence and argument to a body of neutral citizens and not through a process of imagery conjured by Madison Avenue public relations and the collection of uninformed celebrities.

In September 1975, a black assemblyman named Eldridge Hawkins met with Governor Brendan Byrne regarding a pardon for these defendants. The Governor asked Assemblyman Hawkins to investigate the matter and report back to him. A black investigator named Prentis Thompson was assigned to work with Assemblyman Hawkins. (It was Investigator Thompson who later obtained from the Carter alibi witnesses the admission that they had lied at the first trial). (Assemblyman Hawkins ultimately did not recommend a pardon).

It was during the investigation conducted by Assemblyman Hawkins and Investigator Thompson that Alfred Bello changed his story again. He gave statements and testified before a Grand Jury impaneled in Essex County to memorialize testimony. Alfred Bellos new account involved his being in the Lafayette Grill at the time of the murders and included a rather sensational story of his escaping harm by using the body of Hazel Tanis as a shield.

After the polygraph examination of Alfred Bello by Professor Harrelson, Mr. Bello disclosed to the State how this in-the-bar version supplied during the Hawkins investigation came about. Mr. Bello explained how he became associated with two local businessmen named, Joseph Miller and Melvin Ziem, who worked in close association with the defense while attempting to exploit Mr. Bellos situation as a witness in this case. Alfred Bello testified that these men expected to make hundreds of thousands of dollars through the promotion of Mr. Bellos new version of his observations (22aA 4891). Mr. Miller conceded on cross-examination that Mr. Bello had commercial value by reason of his connection with the Lafayette Grill murders (41aA 9642). Mr. Miller conceded that his interest in case was solely to gain financial benefit through the use of Alfred Bello to promote books and move rights (41aA 9641). Mr. Zeim stated on cross-examination that he had no experience in such publishing and filming productions. Mr. Ziem operated a furniture store (41aA 9738). Mr. Miller was a real estate salesman with an office above Mr. Ziems store.

In the two months after the Harrelson polygraph of Alfred Bello and before the trial, the States investigation secured considerable evidence to support Bellos explanation of the origin of the in-the-bar version. In the very affidavit which Alfred Bello gave to Assemblyman Hawkins, Bello inserted the handwritten reference to his agents Melvin Ziem and Joseph Miller (2aF 197-198). On the occasion when Alfred Bello went to Essex County to testify before a Grand Jury where he recited the sensational in-the-bar story, Mr. Miller accompanied him and spoke with the authorities on Bellos behalf (41aA 9676-77).

Jerry Leopaldi, a theatrical agent and film producer, testified that Joseph Miller and Melvin Ziem south him out and met with him on several occasions in November and December 1975 to discuss producing a script and arranging financial for a book and movie that had to do with the Carter-Artis case (26aA 5642-45). They told Mr. Leopaldi that they had tapes of Alfred Bello which were "dynamite" and that they were going to make quite an exciting story (26aA 5646). Mr. Miller testified that he approached a publishing firm named Chelsea House. He testified that he met with people at Playboy Magazine and Penthouse Magazine in that same effort (41aA 9670).

The prosecution produced letters which Joseph Miller wrote to Sherry Lansing of MGM Studios and Socha Metzler of The Viking Press, attempting to sell publication and film rights to Alfred Bellos new story. The letters, both dated September 2, 1975, were marked S-46 and S-47 in evidence. According to Melvin Ziem, Mr. Miller sent out many letters like this (41T 9735). Mr. Miller says in his letters that they have "sensational" tapes of Alfred Bello. "There is information on the tapes too sensitive and spectacular to mention in this letter," says Joseph Miller (41aA 9657, 9755).

Alfred Bello testified that while he was involved with Joseph Miller and Melvin Zeim in the taping and promotion of a new version, Messrs. Miller and Ziem obtained the transcipts and records of the case from New York from defense counsel Myron Beldock (22aA 4895). Mr. Miller admitted on cross-examination that he met with Mr. Beldock at his (Beldocks) office in New York and that he obtained the transcripts, police reports and other records of the case from Mr. Beldock (41aA 9663). Mr. Ziem testified likewise (41aA 9731). In the two letters dated September 2, 1975, which the States investigation recovered and which were referred to previously, Mr. Miller says:

We have over 15 hours of tape recordings from Bello which are uncut. They reveal things that cannot be put in this letter. I have been in touch with Mike [Myron] Beldock and I am sure he will verify that we are on the right track (41aA 9651).

Mr. Miller testified that he spoke to Mr. Beldock three or four times while the taping of Alfred Bello was going on and that he told Mr. Beldock of the taping (41aA 9674). During his involvement with this promotional work, Mr. Miller stated on cross-examination that, he went to New York to meet with George Lois, an advertising executive, who was heading the Carter-Artis Defense Committee (41aA 9665). Mr. Miller stated on cross-examination that he also talked with the defendant Rubin Carter in prison and told him of the taping of Alfred Bello (41aA 9670-71).

At some point during their involvement with Alfred Bello, Messrs. Miller and Ziem came into substantial sums of money, according to the testimony of Mr. Bello (23aA 4966-67).

The tapes of Alfred Bello which Miller and Ziem produced recorded their efforts to rehearse several different accounts of Alfred Bellos observations. A journalist named Blake Fleetwood, who was preparing an article on the Carter-Artis case for Rolling Stone Magazine, talked with Joseph Miller and Melvin Ziem. Mr. Fleetwood was called as a rebuttal witness by the State and he testified that his conversation with Messrs. Miller and Ziem lasted for several hours (44aA 10514-15). Messrs. Miller and Ziem told him that they had Alfred Bellos complete story on tape and that it contained startling new information (44aA 10515). Mr. Fleetwood spalled out five different versions as they were presented to him by Messrs. Miller and Ziem (44aA 10515-18). He explained that this was a very lengthy conversation and they did not begin by saying they had four or five different versions. He said they would present a version and when he would raise questions about it or the proof for it, they would suggest another version (44aA 10518-21). Mr. Fleetwood testified that they were clearly out to sell a story (44aA 10518). This witnesses testimony was very credible. It was in direct contrast to that given by defense witness Melvin Ziem who definitely testified that several different versions were not given to Blake Fleetwood (41aA 9751).

Joseph Miller and Melvin Ziem couldnt expect to profit from Alfred Bellos connection to these murders if Alfred Bello simply repeated a version of this incident which he had already given. No one would pay these men for a story of Mr. Bello saying what he had already said about these murders and these defendants. There was no money in that. The only way for them to make money out of Alfred Bellos involvement as a witness in the Lafayette Grill killings was to promote a new and sensational versionAlfred Bello in the bar at the time the killers are blasting away and as the shots fly all around him and the victims fall dead, he (Mr. Bello) escapes by shielding himself with the body of 51 year old Hazel Tanis (who was hit at close range, four times from the handgun and once from the shotgun).

It was in the course of Alfred Bellos association with these men and their (Messrs. Miller and Ziem) association and close cooperation with the defense, that Mr. Bello came to recite this "sensation" story of his being in the bar during the murders to the Hawkins investigation.

This in-the-bar story is the basis for an argument which the petitioner-appellees have formulated regarding the Harrelson polygraph examination of Alfred Bello. The district court accepted the petitioners-appellees argument based on the in-the-bar story, but made no effort to deal with the substantial portion of the evidence which relates to the background and emergence of the in-the-bar story.

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