Penthouse: For eight years you have been imprisoned for murder. What do you believe is the real reason you're in jail?
Carter: I'm not in jail for committing murder. I'm in jail partly because I'm a black man in America, where the powers that be will only allow a black man to be an entertainer or a criminal. While I was free on the streets - with whatever limited freedom I had on the streets - as a prizefighter, I was characterized as an entertainer. As long as I stayed within that role, within that prizefighting ring, as long as that was my Mecca and I didn't step out into the civic affairs of this country, I was acceptable. But when I didn't want to see people brutilized any longer - and when I'd speak out against that brutality, no matter who committed the brutality, black people or white people - I was harassed for my beliefs. I committed no crime; actually the crime was committed against me. All the evidence today shows that the crime was committed against me...and still is being committed against me. What has happened in the past and what's happening right now make it a very good bet that it may happen to you tomorrow.
Penthouse: When did the harassment begin?
Carter: As far as I can recall, it began in January, February, and March of 1964. Before that time, I was Rubin Carter that everybody loved, a good guy. Muhammad Ali and I once had to appear in front of the New York Boxing Commission up in Albany when some people were asking for the abolishment of boxing. Muhammad was the good guy who showed what boxing was doing for him. Then I was put on display as the former bad guy who had come out of prison, and I explained what boxing had done for me. I was the black American pie at that time. But the moment that I got rid of my manager, Carmen Tedeschi, because he had beaten me out of all this money, then the news media came down on me. They started saying I had left the man who made me - even though each time the bell rang, he grabbed the stool and went and sat down outside the ring.
Penthouse: In other words, you were challenging the boxing establishment?
Carter: Yes. Before that, I would never say much. My manager would do all the talking. He was a publicity hound, and he would always bring up my past - that "my man was in prison" stuff. I let it go, and that I believe now, was a mistake on my part. Because the moment I got rid of him and started speaking for myself, that's when people started saying, "He's challenging boxing." From that time on, everybody really started coming down on me. But my real problems began when the Saturday Evening Post printed what I said about the Harlem fruit riot that took place in April 1964. I said that black people ought to protect themselves against the invasions of white cops in black neighborhoods - cops who were beating little children down in the streets - and that black people ought to have died in the streets right there if it was necessary to protect their children. When a reporter - and a very good friend of mine, or so I thought - asked me about this Harlem fruit riot, I told him how I felt about it. None of this was supposed to be printed, but he saw a story in it and had it printed in the Saturday Evening Post. Well, when that came out the police throughout the world thought I had declared war on them...and when war is declared, truth is always the first casualty. It was at that point that police throughout the country came down on me. There were times when I was arrested three or four times just to put the headline RUBIN CARTER AGAINST THE POLICE in the papers. This is a very skillful maneuver to turn the victim into the criminal and the criminals into the victims. Because not only did it alienate me from white people - the papers said I was a racist bent on killing all blue-eyed devils - but it made black people scared of me too. So I was isolated, hung out there. Meanwhile, I'm trying to fight, trying to go on with my career, and I'm catching pure hell from everybody.
Penthouse: Were you arrested outside of your hometown, Paterson?
Carter: Yes, in Hackensack, New Jersey. I was riding down the highway and my car broke down. I pushed it off the road and walked on down the highway hoping to find someone to help me get it fixed. So when this police car came up on the other side of the highway, I jumped over the viaduct and said, "Man, am I glad to see you. Would you take me to a service station?" He said, "Sure, come on with me, get in the car." So I got in the car and he said, "Let's stop by your car to see if we can start it." He had jumper cables in the back. We pulled up to my car and on the side it had my name in silver letters, Rubin Hurricane Carter. Well, when we couldn't start the car, he said, "I'll take you down to a telephone booth." But he took me straight to the police station and got me in there with all his buddies. And he said, "You know who this is? This is Rubin Hurricane Carter," and all of them pulled guns on me. Then they locked me up and charged me with breaking into a meat-packing place somewhere in the city. I stayed there about seven or eight hours, knowing that I was going to prison if I couldn't get a message out to anybody. They wouldn't let me make any telephone calls, but that morning a black police officer came into the station, saw me sitting in that cell, and he said, "What the hell are you doing here?" I explained to him and he was angry. He began cussing and finally nobody knew who put me in jail or anything, and they let me go. But that was the type of thing that I was running into constantly.
Penthouse: When you were in Los Angeles for a fight, you were required to report to the L.A. Police Department. You wrote in your book that the police chief, William Parker, told you that the FBI had kept close tabs on you. What about other examples of harassment by the FBI or other federal agents?
Carter: I had a few friends who were Secret Service men and federal marshals, and they told me about the file they had on me. They were following me around. Each state that I went in to fight, the moment I got into town the police rode down on me, fingerprinted me and mugged me, and I would have to carry this card attesting to the fact that I was an ex-convict. The harassment was steady...constant.
Penthouse: When you arrived in various towns, did the authorities come and get you?
Carter: Yes. They knew I was coming, and someone had to contact them that I was coming.
Penthouse: Do you believe the FBI has a file on you?
Carter: Absolutely. There is no doubt about it. I remember when I was in Los Angeles and got off the plane that day, I saw this beautiful woman...I just happened to look at her and then kept on going. But in the air terminal I saw the same woman again. She was always behind me. And when I got to the motel on Olympic Boulevard in L.A., she was at the motel. I didn't connect it with anything, but I kept seeing this same woman. And then, when Chief Parker called me up at the motel and told me I'd better come down to the police station to register as an ex-convict, there she was - trying to hide in his office. That's when he told me that the FBI had been following me every step that I had taken in Los Angeles.
Penthouse: You participated in Martin Luther King's march on washington in 1963. Yet in 1965, when Reverend King asked you to participate in the march in Selma, Alabama, you didn't. Why was that?
Carter: Because of threats on my life. I was catching pure hell in the North and the West and all the other places I was going, and I knew that if I ever went to Alabama nobody was going to protect me down there. Dr. King was talking about nonviolence, about being peaceful - laying down on the street while police dogs were biting you and horses were stomping on you and cops were beating you over the head. Well, I knew that I could never be nonvioltent. I'm a peaceful man, but that doesn't mean I'm nonviolent. If you will be nonviolent with me, then I will be nonviolent with you. But if you are going to put some violence on me, I'm going to whip it right back on you.
Penthouse: Do you believe that agents provocateurs were involved?
Carter: Well, I really didn't know then. But, yes, I believe it now.
Penthouse: With your beliefs about self-defense, how did you handle all the harrassment from the police and the FBI?
Carter: I had to hire an adviser to handle the police. This adviser went with me everywhere, but I stayed out of the country and up in my training camp so much that he got tired. He was married and had children, and his wife got tired of him staying away nine months out of the year. So ultimately he left me too. They were isolating me. And this was before black people were proud to be black, you know. There was no "Black Power" then, so I was hung out there by myself, and people would say, "Well, that crazy nigger is in the papers again - messing with some cops again." I was seen as messing with all the police forces in the country. During all that time I had to go to other countries to fight because the cops were really coming down hard on me at home.
Penthouse: So you were actually forced into exile in sense?
Carter: Yes. I had to go to Africa to fight. I had to go to London, to Paris, to South America - just to stay away from here. It was brutalizing me, mentally, because in fighting if you aren't in shape, both mentally and physically, you're no good.
Penthouse: What were the circumstances of your arrest for the Lafayette Bar & Grill murders?
Carter: It was about one o'clock in the morning and I was riding down the street - I'm a night man, you know. When you train in the day, you sleep all night; and when you come out of training, your body clock gets all messed up. So I was riding down the street one night....Now, just that afternoon I had seen in the papers that they had police on rooftops allegedly guarding some witness to these murders (that was Bello, I found out later), and everybody knew it - so if I had committed that crime I would have been long gone. Well, that night I went to turn a corner, and the next thing I knew there must have been 20,000 police shotguns in my face. Just that quick. Wow! "Keep your hands on the wheel," someone said, so I kept my hands on the wheel until they handcuffed me behind my back and put me in a car. Now, the police station was only a block away, but they didn't take me there. They took me up into Paterson mountains - about ten cars of detectives, all with unmarked cars. And I was sitting handcuffed in the back - with two detectives up front and two detectives in the back. They took me up into those mountains, and they parked. Nobody said anything to me. We just sat there. I could hear these loudspeakers...these microphones, going back and forth, chattering angrily...very angrily. You could see policemaen walking around out there with shotguns. No light anywhere, just a dark road. And I thought, "My God, these people are going to kill me!" We stayed there about an hour - just sitting there, nobody saying anything to me. Then, all of a sudden somebody on the car radio said, "Okay, bring him in." It seemed like they were very disappointed, as if somebody had talked them out of killing me - that there would be a big investgation or something if they killed me - which wouldn't have meant shit to me. I would've been dead!
Penthouse: After you were picked up on the night of the murder, and none of the witnesses were able to identify you and John Artis, you took a lie-detector test that proved your innocence. Why wasn't that used as evidence in your trial?
Carter: At that time, in 1966, the lie-detector test wasn't admissible in court.
Penhouse: Weren't there other white cars that were stopped by the police?
Carter: Yes. In the court records cops said, "I stopped this car here, I stopped this car there," but mine was the only car that they stopped and brought to the scene of the crime.
Penthouse: During the trial, were any of the defense witnesses threatened?
Carter: Yes. My God, yes!
Penthouse: Who were they? Can you give us any specific names?
Carter: John "Bucks" Royster. He was the third person in the car with me on the murder night when the police stopped us.
Penthouse: He was threatened? By whom?
Carter: By the police.
Penthouse: And who else?
Carter: My sparring partner, Wild Bill Hardney. He was run out of town. He lived in Newark at the time; and when the Paterson police knew that he was coming as a witness, they got in touch with the Newark police and the Newark police ran him out of town.
Penthouse: Is it true that 400 potential jurors, only eight were black? And that the only selected juror who was black - a West Indian - was the only one dismissed?
Carter: Yes, that's right. Ain't that something? You know, those are astronomical odds - that out of fourteen people on the jury the only black man would be taken off!
Penthouse: With the recantations of the prosecution's key witnesses, Bello and Bradley, and all the other facts that have come to light about the suppression of evidence by the police - for instance, discrepancies concerning the time the police turned in the bullet they claimed to have found in your car - and with so much more new evidence crying for a new trial, why do you think Judge Larner turned down your appeal?
Carter: Well, of course, Judge Larner turned down the appeal because he secured the conviction - and Larner wasn't even a judge before he tried my case.
Penthouse: You mean that was his first case as a judge.
Carter: That was his first and he wasn't even from the same county as I was. You see, in 1966 I was the number-one middleweight contender and an international figure, and everybody in Passaic County - well, everybody in New Jersey - knew that this was a frame-up. None of the judges in Passaic County would touch this case because they knew it was a farce. But they still had to try me, so the governor of New Jersey at that time, Hughes, appointed Larner, at that time a lawyer from Essex County, on September 21, 1966 to go into Passaic County and try my case as his first criminal trial. Now Hughes did this for various reasons, but specially because he knew that Raymond Brown was my attorney. Well, Brown was the best criminal lawyer in the state and a black man. And Larner and Ray Brown were bitter enemies - they had been in cases together before. So they sent Larner in there to hold Brown down and get me convicted. Larner acted like a prosecutor from the bench, and the moment he got me convicted they shipped him back to Essex County. They put him into civil law because he didn't have enough ciminal trial experience.
Penthouse: You mean they let him try your case, then they said he didn't have enough experience and sent him back to civil court?
Carter: Yes, civil court in another county. So therein lie our political implications: Hughes, who was governor of the state of New Jersey at the time and who is now the chief justice of the State Supreme Court. We also have Brendan Byrne, who is the governor of New Jersey now; he was in cahoots with Larner at that time. When these two criminals testified for the state in 1966, they had nine or ten armed robberies throughout New Jersey to answer for. Well, Brendan Byrne, who was then the Essex County prosecutor, went around to all the judges in his county and had them quash all those indictments because they testified against me. So there you see the political ramifications.
Penthouse: Larner was from the same county as Byrne?
Carter: Yes. So when you ask why did Larner deny that appeal, well, he's the guardian of that conviction. He said right from the start of the hearing, "Why should the State be deprived of this conviction?" Those were his exact words - not why two human beings should be deprived of their lives because of vicious and prefabricated lies. Because I will not say that I'm guilty, or act like I'm guilty, I am a threat to the administraion, to the politicians. You know, there are brutal people in control of these prisons. There is no accountability all the way up the ladder. We are just left here with these people, and they are vicious. There have been several instances in the last four or five months of people being brutalized to death right here in Trenton State Prison. This is the snake pit of the politicians. This is the place where they kill you, and that's why they moved me here after the Rahway rebellion. I have as many problems with the inmates as I do with the guards and the administration. I'm like a man sitting on a high fence at noon. This place is very dangerous for me, from both sides of the fence. If for a moment either the administrtion or the inmates here felt as though Rubin Carter was weakening in his fight to any degree, they would pounce on me and wipe me out. It's very dangerous for me here. I'm blind in one eye because of a lack of proper medical attention in this Trenton State Prison, and I know that if i get sick in here I'm going to die. I know that because it's what the administration wants. They showed me that very clearly when they blinded me in my eye.
Penthouse: What did happen to your eye?
Carter: I don't know. When I came into this jail, I had perfect vision - no problems ever with my eyes even when I was a prize-fighter going through all that rugged stuff. I never had problems with my eyes. But then I came to this jail, and when I was here about three weeks I had an examination - at that time they gave every person an examination; now they don't give you anything - and the man who gave me the examination said I had a detached retina and that if he didn't reattach it, I would slowly lose my sight in my right eye.