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Interview with Nelson Algren and Fred Hogan

BROADCAST: Jun. 23, 1977 | DURATION: 00:47:12


Interviewing author Nelson Algren and an investigator for the New Jersey Public Defender's Office, Fred Hogan. Hogan found evidence that led to the overturning of the first conviction of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.


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Studs Terkel If we think of Nelson Algren and his writings, the novels and of course that, perhaps one of the, the best book about Chicago written, Chicago: City on the Make, that love/hate tribute, that paean of praise and at the same time of that cool look at our city. We think of Nelson and also the people he's met throughout his life, all of whom more or less are not the establishment types, but people who I find very fascinating, as Nelson does. He's now visiting Chicago, although he's living in New Jersey, Paterson, now Hackensack, and with him is a friend of his, Fred Hogan, and Fred who would fall in the category of being an Algren figure though he's a Hogan figure. Fred, you, you, you're an investigator for, for the public defender in, in a county.

Fred Hogan Right. Well, it's the state of New Jersey, office of the public defender. I work out of Monmouth County.

Studs Terkel It's funny how you and Nelson met, though, it involved a fighter whom I've heard about and never met, they've called him the greatest middleweights of his time at the time, Rubin Hurricane Carter. And we know of Hurricane Carter today because of a rap. Because of a murder charge and his being in prison now. So how did you and Nelson meet?

Nelson Algren Well, I had an assignment from Esquire magazine. A sub-editor phoned me and said, "You remember Rubin Carter?" I said, "Yes, I saw him fight." Said "He's got a book coming out and we'd like you to interview him." And I said, "How much?" They said, "Two thousand dollars for the piece and a thousand dollars in expenses," and I said, "I'll take the thousand in expenses and then there was -- they had an escape clause just in case they didn't like the 2000, didn't like that, they didn't have to pay 2000. But anyhow I went, and I phoned Fred because he was really conducting Carter's redemption as it was. I mean, he was like, like, he was the one, about one of the only active person at that time who was, didn't believe in Carter's guilt. And so I did a short piece for Esquire, about 35 pages, and they didn't want it, they gave me 250 dollars. This was in the spring of 1974. They paid the escape clause, keep it, we don't want it. And then it went to, mayb-it might have gone to one other magazine. But the, the agent said, "I hope you're not discouraged by the rejection." I said, "No," I said, "In fact I'm beginning to get encouraged knowing the sort of thing that Esquire does go for, they would be interested in."

Studs Terkel You know, so what, what first interested you in, in Rubin Carter, "Hurricane"

Nelson Algren Well, I was interested in him from the time he, from the first time I saw him fight, he's a very interesting fighter, and then I, I read he got in some sort of a mess. I suppose I thought it was with some gang thing. I didn't know, three peo-- three white people were killed and they sent him to prison. I never thought anything more about it. But when Esquire rejected it, I began -- that was the first time I began to take it seriously, because their rejection meant that there was really something to it. If it had been just a light silly thing, you know, or something just about the guy's record and now, but the fact that they rejected it encouraged me to think I better to start taking this seriously. It sounded like a good story. And of course I'd already caught a little bit of a, not entirely but a little bit of Hogan's gut reaction as he called it, that they had the wrong man.

Nelson Algren How'd you hear, Fred, how'd you meet Nelson?

Fred Hogan Well, Nelson had called me as a result of his assignment with Esquire, and he had a hard time trying to get some factual background regarding the case. So he called me at my office in Freehold, then we met in Red Bank, and it was the first time I met Nelson, and we started to talk.

Studs Terkel Well, why'd he call you?

Nelson Algren Well there wasn't anybody else. The people at Esquire didn't know anything about the case. They had no way of getting in to see the man. I mean, there, nobody's paying attention. I'm from a magazine, Esquire, they never heard of it. But the, Fred was, Fred was in New Jersey. Fred was -- Fred had access to Carter. He had access to the, the trial transcripts, he had access to the whole thing. I mean, nobody saw Carter at that time without going through Hogan.

Studs Terkel But how does he -- yeah.

Nelson Algren So I met him. So I met him and he just said "Come on." You know. Introduce him to Car -- I met Carter and then he brought me the trial transcripts, about 440 page of legal language, and I started translating it and then I saw well, this is, this is a good book, so I came back to Chicago, had a sold out there and moved back. To Paterson.

Studs Terkel And of course this is the book you've been working on, too.

Nelson Algren Well, I've been working on it for three years now, off and on, you know.

Studs Terkel I'm curious about Hogan. How do you -- who are you? What do you do? And then how you became involved with the Carter case?

Fred Hogan Well, I used to be a cop. I was a cop in Atlantic Highlands in Monmouth County for about two and a half years. But I met Rubin in 1964. His manager and my dad worked in the Hudson County Jail together and at the time I was interested in boxing and I used to go to the police athletic league in Bayonne where Paddy [Amana?] was very active, and then I had an opportunity to meet Rubin in 1964 and I went to his training camp with him, and we had a, a short relationship, and then I went in the service in '65, and my folks sent me newspaper articles showing where Carter and this other fellow John Artis were found guilty of triple murder, and I never really felt that, that he did it. Although I didn't know him that well, I just couldn't picture him going into a saloon and blowing three people away.

Studs Terkel Now, what, why was that? That's the, where we come to Nelson and you and Hurr -- this guy Rubin Carter. What is it about him that made you feel he was a patsy here?

Fred Hogan Well, at that time he was, you couldn't mistake his, him physically. He's about five foot eight and he never weighed more than 160 pounds in his life, shaven head and a Fu Manchu type of a beard, which was not that popular amongst the Blacks in them days. So you couldn't mistake him, and he was making probably a hundred thousand dollars a year, and to go into some saloon and blow three people away, my opinion was not his forte.

Studs Terkel Yeah. So this -- Nelson, you, I know that when you were in Chicago you were sending him books, you were corresponding with, while he was in prison, with, with

Nelson Algren With Carter?

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Nelson Algren No. No. I might have sent him a book or two. I don't know, but I didn't correspond with him. He's not much of a correspondent. When I got back I moved to, I moved to Paterson and I went, started going through the trial transcripts Fred provided me, and then the landlady didn't like the idea of, of -- well, I mean there was a certain feeling about anybody working for Rubin Carter. The, the feeling in Paterson was very strong. It's a very racist town. And so anyhow, one way or another I moved over to Hackensack, where the climate is easier, and finished the book. And let's see, about one year ago I finished the book. This was before the retrial. See, in the interval the case got, became more interesting. Well, right before, I was at the University of Florida, and right before I came back, the, the case turned around completely because Fred had been working on his own, not for the state but on his own. He'd been after, that is, he had been trying to get, or at first he was just trying to locate the two professional thieves, Bello and Bradley, who at the time upon whose testimony Carter had been convicted for triple murder, Carter and Artis, they said they had seen him. There was a -- Bradley was facing 80 years, nine charges of armed robbery. Bello was also facing time. Neither one identified Carter at the time, but five months later and after a tape recording had been made with the Chief of Detectives DeSimone.

Fred Hogan He was a lieutenant at that time.

Nelson Algren He was a lieutenant. Bello and -- they did, they both testified. Bradley did not say he saw Carter, did he? No, I mean Bello did. They testified, and on their testimony the men went up for triple murder. That was 1967, and about 1970 Hogan started to run these guys down. He ran them down because these guys, prisoners always talk to other prisoners. Bradley talks a lot. He talked to half a dozen or more guys, like he never saw Carter in his life, and he did it to get immunity. I mean, he did it to break his sentence. Says, "I had to! I was facing 80 years!"

Studs Terkel So these guys

Nelson Algren So this guy, so Hogan got just whispers and little letters and hints, so he finally got Bradley. He ran Bradley down, I mean, he ran him down physically, put him up against a wall, and told him of course that the, by this time the, the, the, the -- he had run out for the, the statute of limitations run out, he would not be prosecuted for perjury. He had perjured himself, he admitted it. And so Bello -- I think Hogan got a recantation from him, and then he went and he got another one from Bello. Bello had held off the recantation. So with those two recantations it became a national issue, because it appeared on the front page of The New York Times.

Studs Terkel So Fred, you're the guy then, your own dragnet, you're the guy got these two state's witnesses on whose testimony "Hurricane" Carter and his, another guy Artis were sent up, and you got these two guys to recant.

Fred Hogan That's right.

Studs Terkel What ha -- by the way, how, first of all, what led you into it? You know, you returned from the army and you're an investigator for the public defender.

Fred Hogan Right. When I, when I left the service I was a cop, and at then -- at that time it was very difficult to get into the prisons to speak to anyone. You had to be on a visiting list before you could write them, before you could be, be on a visiting list. You had to visit them before you could write, it was one of them Catch 22 things. So when I went with the public defender's office I had to interview a client in Rahway, and at that time Rubin was in Rahway prison, and I renewed my acquaintance with him. And I used to

Studs Terkel This is a state prison.

Fred Hogan Yes, Rahway state prison, in New Jersey. At that time I renewed my acquaintance with him, and I started to look into the factual background of the case. This was like October or November of '70. And the more I looked into it, the more I felt that these guys did not commit this crime. And the -- I had several people that I would talk to, lawyers, one of the first lawyers was John Flynn, who came down with me and was kind of guiding me and directing me in which way to, to pursue the case and in his opinion it was a lot of legal and constitutional issues. But at that time, Carter and Artis' case had gone to the Supreme Court, the United States Supreme Court, and it was denied. So he, after John looked into the case he suggested that apparently deals were made with these two state's witnesses, Bello and Bradley, and that was the thing to circle in on, which I did do.

Studs Terkel Now, see

Nelson Algren Oh, I was going to say, when I first met, I first met Rubin Carter in a hospital. He had had an operation on one of his eyes in Newark. I spent the whole afternoon with him. There must have been eight or 10 people, came in and out. The interesting thing about the people that came in and out is that there was not a liberal there. There was not a person there who was looking for a cause. There was not a Black person except for Carter's wife. The Blacks were not interested in him. The liberals were not interested in him. Everybody that came in and out was what you would call a "law and order" person and who at that time God knows they might even be, by, they might even have voted for Nixon, I don't know. [laughing] But they were "law and order" people. One was a U.S. marshal, ex-fighter

Fred Hogan -- Billy

Nelson Algren Yeah. And this one and that one and Hogan, and these are from the middle-class, law and order people. If the guy did not do the crime. I mean, who were willing to go out for -- they believe in law and order, which is a terrible phrase, now when you say "law and order," you mean law and disorder, you know, I mean, but these people really believed

Studs Terkel So these are the people, the, these very traditional, very conservative, quote unquote "law and order" people were convinced of

Nelson Algren Oh, they were the only ones interested.

Studs Terkel Of it, they were convinced of his innocence!

Nelson Algren They did not believe he did it.

Studs Terkel Believe he's guilty.

Nelson Algren They stuck with him. The, the NAACP and the -- were not interested. It looked to them like they might be a little bit, well, you say contaminated or they're very clean in this way, and the Southern -- what is it, Southern Leadership Union, Ralph Abernathy's business?

Fred Hogan Which he subsequently became involved in when, when

Nelson Algren Oh, well, then, then, when after the recantations Carter decided he will never get justice in New Jersey, so he hired, he went for a New York team of lawyers, and the whole thing went to New York. It went to, as Humphreys would say, Madison Avenue.

Fred Hogan Humphrey was the prosecutor in Passiac county

Nelson Algren It went to the big publicity people. This was when [laughing] nobody even remembered Hogan in this time. The names there connected, the names connected, if you asked anybody at that time, they, you know, "What do you think of Rubin Carter?" they say

Studs Terkel You know, well course this

Nelson Algren He, he wrote the

Studs Terkel What's funny about this as you tell the story, this is a story that the public doesn't know about, is that we hear of Carter because of the tremendous rallies on his behalf when it came for the second trial, the Madison Square Garden rally where Bob Dylan sang a song he wrote about

Nelson Algren Yeah, it was a great song. Shall I sing it for you? [laughing] I'll sing it for you, I'll sing it, I'll try, I can't get, my voice is not good, it's not as bad, I can't get it as bad as, I can't get that adenoidal line in there, but the song, I don't remember all the words, the song went, "The judge said, Woo-woo, you crazy nigger, woo-woo, you done pulled the trigger. Woo-woo!" He sold a million copies and every liberal in New York said that's the greatest thing, you know, "Oh, my God, did you hear Bob Dylan?" I said, "Jesus Christ I hope Rubin didn't hear it." [laughing] But anyhow, he got in and he sold his million records and everybody else got the -- I will say I believe Muhammad Ali likes this guy. I don't think he, he really didn't need that much publicity. Anyhow, but there were a dozen other people there who were just in it to get in the cameras. All right. They got in the cameras and the thing went nationwide. Now, at that time I thought that was gonna be a good move. That was my own opinion. I thought now they've gotten such nationwide attention that they will simply overwhelm the opposition. Fred didn't say so. Fred didn't think so, he, he said that he thought he would have, should have held it in New Jersey with the New Jersey lawyers. I thought Carter -- well, you know I think Carter's right. I think Carter's doing the right thing. When it came to the trial, there was a Hudson County jury from New Jersey, and by this time they had put down the whole, the New York media, had found something which would divert attention from the old corruption of New York and so forth. Now they had found somebody even worse [laughing] and they -- well, they mocked the whole thing. They mocked DeSimone, the chief of detectives. You know, look what this man has done. They're very righteous, you know, you get those TV lights and you get very righteous about it, and the New York judiciary may not be perfect, but it's comparatively just compared to this terrible New Jersey thing. And the New York cops, well they can be rough but they're not this brutal [cynics?] so, I, I mean they look down on them. Well, this has a backlash. And there's this jury of little, from a little small town in New Jersey.

Fred Hogan It's not that small, Nelson, Jersey City, that's my own hometown, now, come on.

Nelson Algren Are they from Jersey City?

Fred Hogan Yeah. Well, Hudson County.

Nelson Algren Jersey City is very small compared to New York City, especially if you have New York City snickering at you. [laughing] So, I think it was, I think there was a backlash there. I think they, I think they resented the New York, one of the New York lawyers anyhow. And I think they resented that particular lawyer's habit of needling the judge, of taking over the case like he's William Kunstler.

Studs Terkel And so this is all working against Carter, let's go back then, after the recantation of the two state's witnesses, Bradley and Bello, that Fred Hogan, who was not even known, got, he had, what happened then, what happened after

Fred Hogan Well, we had a hearing in 1974 in front of Judge Lerner who was the trial judge at the time in

Studs Terkel Samuel Lerner.

Fred Hogan Samuel Lerner. He was the trial judge in 1967. He subsequently became the assignment judge of Hudson County. So it had to go before him. And at that time Jack Noonan, who was John Flynn's law partner who I mentioned before, and a fellow by the name of Paul Feldman, were the attorneys and Stanley VanNess, who was the public defender at the time who is now the public advocate was involved, and Dick Newman, we went before Lerner for a rehearing, and Bello and Bradley got on the stand and testified that they lied at the original trial. And as a result of that a tape was discovered. Jack Noonan and I were in Passaic County courthouse one day and came upon the fact that there was a, a tape that was done of Bello back in 1966 which was never given to the original trial attorneys, which was Ray Brown, who was a very prominent lawyer in New Jersey, and a fellow by the name of Arnie Stein, who is now a judge. This material was never given

Studs Terkel What was on the tape?

Fred Hogan The tape that was subsequently found and played, it indicated that Bello was coerced and pressured into saying that he did see Carter and Artis commit the crime, which was not accurate.

Studs Terkel So what happens then? Then Carter's freed.

Fred Hogan Well, the recantation hearing in 1974 was denied by Lerner.

Studs Terkel By the way, when we, pardon, when we say Carter, we mean Carter

Fred Hogan Carter and Artis, they're co-defendants. The recantation hearing for a new trial on newly discovered evidence was denied by Judge Lerner. The case went up on appeal. At that point is when the New York people became involved. My opinion was that we would definitely win a new trial on, as a result of Jack Noonan's efforts and Feldman's and VanNess' and Newman's efforts, just on the legal background. And I'm not an attorney, but my opinion that was enough evidence there to get a new trial. Well, that's when the publicity started, it was front page of The New York Times and then people started forming committees.

Studs Terkel The New York Times correspondent Selwyn Raab.

Fred Hogan Right.

Nelson Algren Well, there was a, there's an incidental thing, it's not pertains directly but, ever since Bernstein and what's the other guy?

Studs Terkel Woodward. Woodward

Nelson Algren Yeah. They established such solid reputations for good investigative reporting that it incited almost every reporter who was ambitious needed to, needed the cause. I mean he needed to show he's also on the side against the establishment. Selwyn Raab published the recantations. The recantations came out by Selwyn Raab, and apparently it gave the impression that Selwyn Raab had run these guys down. Selwyn Raab didn't know about them it just came across his media screen. And he seized the opportunity and received -- this is something called the Heywood Broun Association, or press association, they gave him an award for getting the recantations. I think he, I'm not sure, I think he did mention at the end that somebody else, some guy Kogan or Fogan or I mean somebody else, well a guy, somebody from New Jersey was also interested, but he took the money. He took the money and he took the claim. So [laughing] and Hogan is out on the Jersey shore, he said, "Well, what the hell did I do for seven years?" And by this time, Hogan was closed out. That is, he gave the guy, he handed the guy the recantations, and then he says now, he expected some reciprocation. Naturally, when you do something for a guy, you're in the case, and now Raab says I'm sorry, you know, [laughing] his material is very private. He hands him the recantations.

Fred Hogan I physically handed him two written recantations in the coffee shop in The New York Times building. Paul Feldman was there, myself and a fellow by the name of Solomon. I physically handed him the recantations.

Nelson Algren Well, Raab was right in this, he did get the recantation. He really did get

Studs Terkel That is, he published them.

Nelson Algren Well, he get them, he got them from Hogan [laughing] Hogan gave them to him, he got them.

Fred Hogan And I, I asked him, I said, "So and here, here's what these guys said to me. Let me have your notes so we can compare if there's any discrepancies, you know, we'll see what, what they told you." And he said, "No, my notes are confidential." [laughing] That's a true story. That is a true story. And then, when, when the, the new trial came about, Raab's position was that we didn't work as a team. See, Raab never went in, on the streets with me as far as running these people down. There was one reporter, Hal Levinson, who was with Channel 5, he was with Channel 13 at the time. He was with me physically running

Studs Terkel In New York? You mean, New York.

Fred Hogan Yes, he was at -- he and Selwyn worked together on Channel 13, and Selwyn was his boss and Selwyn actually assigned this case to Hal Levinson. Selwyn left Channel 13, went with The Times, Levinson left 13, went with Channel 5. And Hal was with me physically running these people down, and he was with me when I got Bradley to recant. But Raab was never there.

Studs Terkel So I'm, I'm thinking, here is Hurricane Carter and John Artis on trial for their lives and, or life imprisonment for the murder of three people, and now the two key star witnesses for the state recant, who were lying, a deal was made.

Fred Hogan That's

Studs Terkel And meantime it becomes a cause celebre. The media, prize-winning journalists, a songwriter and now where's Carter? So now he's out. Carter and Artis are

Fred Hogan He got out in March of 1976. Yes.

Studs Terkel Now what happens? Now comes Nelson Chapter 2, now comes second -- so Carter's out. Okay, everything's okay then, right?

Fred Hogan Well,

Studs Terkel This guy's ignored. But what happened?

Fred Hogan Well, in the interim it was Rubin's decision to get, Mike Nelson said, New York lawyers, he figured he couldn't get justice in New Jersey and nobody would listen to me. I told Nelson it was a bad

Nelson Algren [Laughing] Like when he would call about it.

Fred Hogan You know. I told him it was a bad move. And Nelson kind of disagreed with me, he felt that it was better to get New York lawyers.

Nelson Algren At that time, yeah.

Fred Hogan I said, "No way. No way!" I said, "It's a bad move."

Studs Terkel And so what happens now during the second trial?

Fred Hogan Well, during the second trial, they, I was not privy to a lot of the things that were going on. I was, I was never consulted. I offered to take a leave of absence and work on the case and Stanley VanNess, the public defender was willing to give me that leave of absence, but naturally in view of all these rallies and so on and so forth that was going on, I would have to be reimbursed. I mean, I just wouldn't leave my job without any income. And I talked to the New York lawyers about that, and they said, "Well, you know we don't know what's gonna happen," and I said, "Well, you know, I'm, I have a little idea what this case is about, I've only been working on it since 1970." And they did not, would not consult with me as far as continuing the investigation.

Studs Terkel You were the one guy closest to the case, really.

Fred Hogan That's, that's a state-- that's

Nelson Algren He was the only one.

Fred Hogan Pretty accurate statement.

Studs Terkel Well, this sounds

Nelson Algren The only articulate one, the only one active

Studs Terkel This sounds incredi-- so now during the second trial as Nelson was explaining earlier, now the, the wiseguys in the sense of the word, the weisenheimers in New York are getting the people of New Jersey, or certainly involved, pretty goddamn angry. Pretty angry, I

Nelson Algren Well the, the prosecuting attorney, Humphreys, did a very shrewd thing. I asked Fred at the time that Carter and Artis were released, after the, after the, the Supreme Court in New Jersey threw the case out because of that tape, voted seven to nothing, and the men are free and they have to go for the second trial. Hogan says, "Well, the, the prosecution" -- Hogan was as close as anybody to it. This his, his opinion was the general opinion was, I mean of the people who were close to it that, the state had very small chance because both of their, both of their, their only two witnesses had recanted, and on top of that it's going to cost the county two million dollars. Hogan's impression was he did -- wasn't sure what would happen, says they might just make some sort of a token. Their forces were all scattered and they might make some sort of a token representation and let the guy go. This was how it looked. Wasn't that how it looked

Fred Hogan at No

Nelson Algren Yeah and it looked like that way to everybody.

Fred Hogan You or Studs could have tried that case.

Nelson Algren But Humphreys was very shrewd. Humphreys organized the trial, the second trial on the basis of the good small-town people of New Jersey versus the Madison Avenue hustlers, the people who try to impose because they're celebrities and they have their pictures in the paper, they impose law and order. We don't depend on the New Jersey courts. We depend on Muhammad Ali and the wrestlers and the golf players and the, and they are the ones who tell us how bad we are. I mean, he created a feeling and then also there always also the, the fact that Bello was, Bello appeared again, materialized in person, and then there was two days of hassling because the defense knew it would be very bad to have him on the stand. He had, he recanted his recantation. This strengthened the opposition. Meanwhile, the op-- meanwhile the prosecution got very busy compromising or winning over the original defense, defendants of Carter. There were four or five witnesses for Carter in the original trial that the prosecution got to, and they switched. They said, "No, we lied." One or two of them, I don't know about all of them, one is engaged to a Paterson cop, another turned out to be a, a hooker, a Black hooker in a hotel. As soon as -- she didn't want to say where she was working. She was very reluctant. Turns out she's working at the Thunderbird, which is a -- what is a Black woman, a young attractive Black woman doing -- I mean, if she wants to, you know, keep working, she will testify as the police want her. And she was very -- she was captured. So they captured four or five witnesses, maybe some of them did lie, I don't know. But they got so many of the defense witnesses to swing over before the trial, that Beldock and Steel, the defense attorneys, got scared about the time that they might not have any witnesses left, and so they were given a choice of attorneys. First, I mean, at fir -- a choice of judges. The first judge was Leopizzi and then he had to disqualify

Fred Hogan No, Marchese.

Nelson Algren No, I think it's about Leopizzi first.

Fred Hogan Yes,

Nelson Algren And then, he wa -- he had to disqualify himself because of previous involvement.

Studs Terkel He had been the judge in the first case.

Fred Hogan No, Leopizzi was a defense lawyer that represented one of the suspects in the original

Studs Terkel Oh, one of the suspects who was never convicted.

Nelson Algren Prime suspects.

Studs Terkel There were two crime suspects who may possibly have been involved. Right.

Fred Hogan Right.

Nelson Algren Yeah, well

Fred Hogan -- He was the attorney for them at that time when, when he was a defense attorney.

Nelson Algren And this guy, this guy for whom he was an attorney failed the lie test. Carter incidentally passed it. But then his lawyer Leopizzi told him, "Now, keep your mouth shut and don't take any more lie tests." This was years ago. Now when his name comes up again, he has to be disqualified because he's already involved in the case. It therefore went to another judge named Marchese. Marchese had to be disqualified for some reason, he was already involved, so then the defense was told, "Well, if you don't want Marchese, we can go back to Leopizzi. There are just two judges, you can try, both had been previously involved. All right? The defense didn't want to waste any more time because they became conscious that they were making great inroads, the prosecution, on their witnesses, so they took Leopizzi, who conducted a fair trial, incidentally. It was quite a fair

Studs Terkel Well, this becomes more and more curiouser all the time, doesn't it, the you know, curiouser and curiousers. It is like Alice in Wonderland. Well, what happened, what made Bello re -- the witness recant his recantation?

Fred Hogan You want me to answer

Nelson Algren Yeah, I wish you would, you

Fred Hogan Bello said that I offered him a bribe.

Studs Terkel That you offered him a bribe.

Fred Hogan Yes, that I offered him a bribe. And I, I wasn't in the courtroom when he testified, Nelson was, I, I was not allowed in the courtroom, I was sequestered because I was a potential witness. Bello said that I offered him a bribe, but he was -- my understanding is he very vague about it. I first met Bello in '73 and then again in '74. And it was my understanding he could never pinpoint where I was supposed to have offered this bribe to him, and as a result of that he also said that Selwyn Raab from The New York Times offered him a job, left him money in the jail, and several other people

Nelson Algren Levinson also

Fred Hogan Levinson

Nelson Algren He had said a thousand dollars to make a documentary, there was no evidence of that.

Fred Hogan Yeah, it was, you now, accusations on this guy. Now this guy, you have to realize the background behind him. He's been in and out of institution since day one. He's a pathological liar. He's taken six lie detector tests and passed every one of them and gave six different versions of what happened in this crime.

Studs Terkel Oh you, you mean he's such a good liar.

Nelson Algren On

Studs Terkel Well, you mean as your mar -- him, he's, you mean his lying is almost reflexive, he can pass the test.

Fred Hogan Oh, yeah.

Nelson Algren He's very frank about it, this story -- the, the courtroom was crowded when he was there, and they would say, the prosecution said, "Well at that time you said this, and did you take an oath?" "Yeah, I took an oath." "So then you lied." "Oh, yes,

Studs Terkel So the guy with no credibility whatsoever.

Nelson Algren The judge turned, I remember Leopizzi -- the, the guy had, the guy just "This is, no, I didn't. No I lied." He was lying. And Leopizzi turned like this, you know, and he's looking. He'd never seen anybody like this. I mean, he'd seen people lie, but without any embarassment, and the prosecu-- the defense attorney said, oh about something was a story, Bello said, "The story was," he said "Of course I lied. What we had to do, we had to get a book." He was writing a book, he had two agents. He said, well he, "Yes," he said, "I told the grand jury that, yes, of course. That was a script." "What script is that? "Well, we see, we got a book." He's got two agents, a real estate man

Fred Hogan Ziem and Miller.

Nelson Algren Yeah, Ziem, Z-I-E-M, and a guy named Miller, one is a real estate man and one sells chairs, and they were his agents, and he said they, they lived in the same house and they have to get -- now Miller, his agent's idea was, Miller's idea was simply that the story as told would not hold up, they had to get a better story.

Fred Hogan Got to color it a little bit.

Nelson Algren They had to color the story, so his story, so well, whatever you want to say. Well, let's say that you were in the bar. This is one of the versions, you were in the bar, and, and then when the police came in, they killed -- he used very thoughtfully, he used this woman who was shot, he used her as a shield. She was shot five times. [laughing] And, and the prosecution said, Humphreys said "Well, we couldn't have used him as a witness if he'd stuck to that". He says a fly couldn't have lived behind this woman the way she was shot up. Then he said, "No, I was lying. That was for the script." So

Studs Terkel It's on the basis of this guy's testimony who's almost, almost a caricature of a congenital liar.

Nelson Algren Yeah, yeah.

Studs Terkel That, on the basis of his testimony then in which recant free --- that Carter is reconvicted and Artis.

Fred Hogan That's right.

Nelson Algren Yeah.

Fred Hogan And as a result, as a result of his accusations about me supposing offered him a bribe, I had to hire two lawyers. They tried to indict me. And they're still investigating me. I still have not gotten an official word from the attorney general's office that the case has been dropped on this cockroach's word.

Studs Terkel You're pretty certain the case has been dropped, though.

Fred Hogan I don't know. I've never gotten any official notification. I do have some good people backing me and in my corner.

Studs Terkel So what -- where, where are we now? Yeah,

Nelson Algren I want to, well, I want, I mean the, Bello was very amusing on the stand be -- because he said, "Well, it was for the book." "But what book?" "Well, Miller and Ziem," then he said, "Well, see we had this book going, they're going to make a lot of money. And we're supposed to go, you know, supposed to split us three ways," he said, "Except Miller came to me," Miller lives upstairs, Ziem downstairs, Bello in the middle. "Miller came to me and he said, 'What do we need Ziem for? We don't need this guy. You know, let's split 50/50.'" Bello says "Okay, we'll split 50/50." Then Ziem comes to him, "You know, we don't pay this horse's ass. Let's you and I, us, split 50/50." Bello says, "Okay." So [laughing] so he says, "Then they both got together and I got left out, they split 50/50." He said, he said "They got a lot of money." He don't know where. He said, "I don't know, they came back, they had so much money they bought special clips for it". So you talk, it was like listening to, you know, a conversation like

Studs Terkel Yeah, this does sounds like, it sounds like, you know, a comic case were it not so serious. Carter then is back in prison.

Fred Hogan And John Artis,

Studs Terkel And John Artis. For how long?

Fred Hogan Well, Rubin was convicted of triple murder, as was John Artis, Rubin sentence is triple life, which was his original sentence, two concurrent and one consecutive. John Artis got triple life to run concurrent, so Artis is eligible for parole in around 1982. Rubin is eligible around 2001. In New Jersey a life sentence, you come -- you're eligible to go before the parole board in about 14 years and eight months. So he has two concurrent and one consec, it comes out to about 2001 when you're just eligible. The way lifers have been getting out, it's been running approximately 20 to maybe 22, 25 years. So

Studs Terkel Where does this leave -- so we come to the question of Rubin Carter, don't we? And all us, here we have the cause celebre, we have Madison Square Garden, we have New York lawyers, we have recanting, a recantation of a congenital liar. And here's Rubin Carter, ex-middleweight, or certainly one of the great middleweights of his time, in prison. This man, who is he? You know, what is his reaction to all this? You know him. You've met him. What's his reaction

Fred Hogan Well, I haven't spoken to Rubin since the trial has been over with, because I run into some administrative problems as far as being involved in a case. And then when the New York guys took over, the public defender was obviously no longer involved, but Nelson had gone down to the prison and spoke with Rubin and John Artis had called me a couple of times from, from prison, and he's now in Rahway, and Rubin's in Trenton, but Nelson went down about two months ago to speak with Rubin, so I -- he could probably answer

Nelson Algren Well, Carter's unmoved. He was not in the least depressed. He's still in perfect physical shape. He is absolutely, he says this he has a fighter's psychology, if you get knocked down, you get up off the floor. He is now planning an appeal, because appeal I believe is to be based on the presence of Bello, that Bello had already disqualified himself, the trial should be thrown out because of Bello's presence. In order to make the appeal, however, he has to have the trial transcripts. He's indigent. The trial, the trial transcripts will cost the defense six or eight or ten thousand dollars, they have no money anymore. I mean, the, the, the present team, and Carter has no money. In this case, the county can, if they think it's justified, can buy the trial transcripts on which the appeal would be based. This is up to Leopizzi, this is up to the judge, whether he -- it should be presented to the county or not.

Fred Hogan Which is kind of a dilemma because there were certain rulings made and Leopizzi indicated, "Well, you could always appeal it if you think I'm wrong." But yet Leopizzi is the one that has the control over issuing these transcripts,

Studs Terkel So the appeal is to him and if he grants the appeal he's admitting that he was wrong.

Fred Hogan No, he, he just has to grant them the option of getting the trial transcripts, which I was with Lew Steel and Beldock the other night. And to, to date, they have not filed a formal appeal because Leopizzi has not ruled whether they should get the transcripts at the county expense or not.

Nelson Algren Do you think if Beldock and Steel dropped the case since there's no money more, more money in it for them, would, and Noonan and Flynn picked it up, do you think there's any, any possibility

Fred Hogan Well, if Beldock and Steel are no longer involved, they're willing to provide their services for nothing, but they need the trial transcripts. If they drop out and Leopizzi rules that he's not going to give them the transcripts for whatever reason he decides it on, the public defender, upon reviewing Rubin and John's indigency to make sure that they have no money, they have to pick it up. So they have to provide the transcripts.

Nelson Algren Oh, I see. Well, that's a little, little gleam of hope.

Fred Hogan But for some reason Beldock and Steel do not want to, you know, talk to the public defender because we have an absolute obligation, as far as the public defender's office is concerned to pick up the expense for transcripts of indigent persons that are appealing. But they haven't made that decision

Nelson Algren Oh I see, I see, I see. It sounds to me like Beldock and Steel are just in the way now.

Fred Hogan Well, that's what they are. They are -- because from what Steel told me the other night, he doesn't know what he will do if Leopizzi does not rule in their favor. He's trying to get the NAACP involved or the ACLU, some type of organization to pick up the tab for the transcripts anticipating a negative on Leopizzi.

Studs Terkel So this is how it stands now. So we think of -- I think of three people, I think of "Hurricane" Carter as well as his colleague, Artis, Nelson Algren and Fred Hogan. And it's funny how these three lives intertwine and in the middle of this is this incredible example of justice and so it leaves Nelson now living in Hackensack, New Jers-- I don't know if you, you've been spending a number of years working your own thoughts

Nelson Algren -- Since 1974, yeah.

Studs Terkel On, on your own, on your own version of

Nelson Algren Yeah, uh

Fred Hogan And he accuses me of making him move from Chicago to New Jersey.

Nelson Algren Yeah, no, if it wasn't for Fred I would still be living in Chicago. I mean, I'm not going to go hog blind to a new town I never saw before and start writing.

Fred Hogan I don't know if that's good or bad for the

Studs Terkel So are you

Fred Hogan I did appreciate you having a party for me last night, Nelson, for my welcome, welcoming

Studs Terkel So then it was, it was Hogan, then, and the case that impelled you to move there, Nelson.

Nelson Algren Well, yeah, because I mean I had access to the trial transcripts, which was the whole basis for the book. I mean, I could not have thought of trying to, you know, do the whole trial without the transcripts, and I don't know what it would have cost me, but Hogan brought them to me and carried them into the house. And I said, "What are you do --" and he said, "Let's go to the fights." [laughing]

Studs Terkel So you know what, what's, what's interesting

Nelson Algren -- I filled the front room with the transcripts and went to the fights. When I came back, I looked, what was all that paper laying around here?

Studs Terkel See, you know it's funny, I'm thinking Nelson, Nelson has all, you know, all these years gathering material for it, and you were, you used to visit the courtroom pretty often, didn't you, you were there almost every day.

Fred Hogan Oh, just about every

Nelson Algren Oh, now and then, no, not too often, just once in

Fred Hogan No, in the Carter case.

Nelson Algren Oh, in the Carter

Studs Terkel case I meant the Carter

Nelson Algren -- I was there every day, almost every day.

Studs Terkel Every day, yeah.

Nelson Algren Yeah, I thought you meant Chicago.

Studs Terkel And so you have, so you have

Fred Hogan The first trial and now he was personally there for the retrial.

Studs Terkel So it's funny, it seems to me though Nelson's book, seem to me, Nelson's writing, his work, and Carter's fate in a way are almost intertwined.

Nelson Algren Well, I hope the book would come out before, [laughing] I mean I'd like to see Carter come out and the book come out the same time, I don't know whether either will ever come out. I have doubts about either, both. I don't know whether either, either Carter will ever get out or whether the book will ever be published.

Studs Terkel So what, before we adjourn for -- you know, there's, I'm thinking about Nelson in Hackensack, New Jers-- there's a song I remember as a kid in the '20s, "I want to go back to my little shack back in Hackensack, New Jersey." So you see, I might fi -- I might find, I may find, but I'm thinking before we say goodbye now, thoughts! Just thoughts about yourselves and Rubin Carter and this incredible moment in a courtroom today in, in, in this year 1977. Just your thoughts.

Nelson Algren Well, all I can think of is that Caterina Valente sang "I Like New York." When she sang, she said, "I took a little trip to Hackensack, soon as I saw Hackensack I came right back." That's the only other song I know which features Hackensack.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking about thoughts of, you know, goodbye thoughts right now.

Fred Hogan My, my, thoughts, hopefully these guys will finally get justice. I did everything I could, and Nelson did everything he could, and the ball's in somebody else's court. What court that is, I don't know.

Nelson Algren It's just going to hang there and there's only one thing which is certain, and that is that as long as Rubin Carter is alive, the case is alive. He will not give in, I -- how long he'll live who knows, but until -- as long as he's alive, there's always going to be something new in the case. It will keep popping up. It'll lay still, but because Carter will keep popping up. He's that sort of a

Studs Terkel Could, if it comes out, what emerges, what, what emerges from the conversation is, in your recounting of the trial, is Carter himself is a remarkably strong

Nelson Algren Well, my respect for him was in this, that he was a prisoner for ten years, and never became a prisoner. He never, when I saw him, he was always dressed in some distinctive way, sometimes with this, what is this?

Fred Hogan Like a white smock.

Nelson Algren Or a white or black, it was always distinguished, and the other prisoners were walking around in the prison clothes. I said, "Well, how come, you know, you aren't dressed?" and he said, "I, I won't dress like the other prisoners, because that's a sign that they're doing some penance." He says, "I didn't do this. So I won't. I don't do any of the prison details." He doesn't work. Oh, he said, "I like, love to use my hands, but for 80 cents a day? No." I said, "How do you get away with it?" He says, "What can they do? Kill me. All right, let them kill me."

Studs Terkel That's it. Boy.

Nelson Algren And maybe they will.

Studs Terkel Nelson Algren and Fred Hogan discussing an adventure and reflections of theirs on this case and it's for us now to think about, wow, incredible. One aspect, I say, what impresses me in listening to Nelson and to Fred talk is how little we know, you know? How, how also how the media works, you know, whether it be television, or whether it be in the world of entertainment and whether it be the press, you know?

Nelson Algren Do I get to sing, you know you promised I could get to sing "Prisoner of Love" before we go?

Studs Terkel [Laughing} Thank you very much.

Fred Hogan Thank you, Studs.

Studs Terkel You know what? Maybe we'll do a song. This is incredible. This is an incredible story you both tell. It's an, unbelievable.

Fred Hogan And it's consistent.

Studs Terkel You know what the story als --you know what it's a story of? It's a story of, use a phrase: show biz.

Nelson Algren Yeah,

Studs Terkel These guys, it's, it's for a story of show biz.

Nelson Algren Except nobody can sell

Studs Terkel And the victim, the victim, the victim is Rubin Carter. As well as you guys, you of course too, he the victim because he's physically in prison, you because you've been had, shafted but good, and, and Nelson because he's one of our best writers who's got something, but they won't -- people don't want to know about it. You know?

Nelson Algren No, I don't think they do, after, after three years.

Studs Terkel No, they don't want to know. Let's go eat!

Nelson Algren Okay, let's go eat.

Studs Terkel That's incredible.