"There won't be glaring lights, cheering crowds, or well-wishers awaiting me at the end of this final round, if I lose it; only steel bars,
Stone wall . . . and near insanity."
Rubin Carter, in his book, 'The Sixteenth Round."
The final round is over, and twice-convicted murderer Rubin (Hurricane) Carter is back in maximum security at Trenton, N.J., State Prison, far from the bright lights and adulating rock concert crowds at Madison Square Garden and the Astrodome in Houston.
Gone also are the Hurricane Carter T-shirts, bumper stickers and life-sized posters that proclaimed the image of a proud black man victimized by a white police frame-up in an era of racial stife.
In place of these trappings of a national cause celebre is a shell of a defense foundation beset by internal strife, possessing little more than the bittersweet memories of the frenetic rallies, marches, benefit concerts and demonstrations that propelled Carter and his co-defendant, John Artis, into the status of folk heroes.
Also, the authorities are beginning to ask questions about the financing of the biggest and most slickly packaged cause-oriented media blitz in recent times.
Two star-studded benefit rock concerts - in New York and Houston - yielded more than half a million dollars in box office receipts for the decense of Carter and Artis.
But only about $65,000 found its way to the lawyers who defended the two men at their retrial in Paterson, N.J., for first-degree murder, which ended this month with new sentences of life imprisonment for both.
The rest - according to the accounting records of the Freedom for All Forever Foundation - has been spent for expenses and overhead.
The New York State Attorney General's office, acting on an audit of the foundation made by the charities unit of the State Board of Social welfare, has begun an investigation of the fund's expense claims.
Morever, Rep. Edward I. Koch (D-N.Y.), saying that the expenditures for one benefit concert are "insulting to one's sensibilities," has asked the Internal Revenue Service to look into the matter.
Koch, who requested the state investigation, said he will also draft federal legislation to impose tighter controls over fund-raising adn provide for spot-checking of the expense records of all charitable organizations.
Referring to the Jan. 25, 1976, "Night of the Hurricane" benefit concert in Houston, which had box office reciepts of $339,788 but claimed a net loss of $48,777 after expenses, Koch complained, "What arrogance. They list these expenditures, but nobody checks them. Who knows if they really paid out for those expenses? Who knows where that money really went?"
The sponors of the Carter-Artis benefits claim they are the victims of a "witch hunt" and say they can prove the legitimacy of their expenses. They also claim, in effect, that it takes money to raise money, and that the two defendants have benefitted from expert legal cousel they otherwise could not have afforded.
"I don't feel we have anything to hide. Our purpose went beyond just playing lawyers' fees. It was to call attention to the apparent abuse of civil liberties, and I think we succeeded," said John Webseer, vice president and a director of Freedom for All Foerver.
The origin of the Carter and Artis media campaign was "The Sixteenth Round," Carter's autobiography, Puhlished in 1974. It is an emotional account of growing up in a Paterson ghetto, becoming a contender for the middleweight boxing crown and then being arrested for a tripple murder in a local bar.
Carter and Artis were accused of wlaking into a white bar at 2:30 a.m. on June 17, 1966, and opening fire with a shotgun and a revolver, randomly kinlling three white persons and seriously wounding another.
The case, tried in the atmosphere of racial unrest taht the beset many cities, hinged on the testimony of a convicted burglar, Alfred Bello, who said he saw Carter and Artis walking around the corner from the bar, waving guns and laughing. Police also let and shotgun shell in a defendant's rented car.
Bello, according to his own account, was a lookout for a burglary of a sheet metal company across the street. But in 1974 he recanted his eye-witness version in conversations with defense lawyers and in interviews with Selwyn Rabb, an investigative reporter for The New York Times.
Amidst charges that the recantation was elicite with promises of money and plea-bargaining deals, Bello later reversed his stance and offered testimony at the second trial and that helped re-convict Carter and Artis.
The major difference between the two trials was that the prosecution suggested no motive for murder in the 1966 proceedings; 10 years later, the prosecution seemed to draw heavily upon the racial assertions contained in Carter's autobiography, and claimed that the whites in the Paterson bar were killed in revenge for the earlier slaying of a black man.
Against this backdrop, Carter's autobiography became an instant best-seller among the causists, and the plight of Carter and Artis was brougth to the attention of George Lois, an unconventional Manhattan advertising man who has helped sell off-track betting, Cutty Sark scotch, Esquire magazine and Robert F. Kennedy as a candidate for the Senate from New York. Lois heads a Fifth Avenue advertising firm Lois, Holland, Callaway - with $32 million a year in accounts.
"I'm on this committee because I believe Rubin Carter is innocent and I happen to be an advertising guy who happened to get involved," Lois said when Freedom for All Forever was established. This week Lois epeatedly refused to answer telephones inquiries.
Soon, Bob Dylan had written a top-ten rock sing called "Hurricane," and Isaac Hayes, Stevie Wonder, Joan Baez, Dyan Cannon and Muhammad Ali were all lending their support and talent to the cause. All of them appeared on the stage of Madison Square Garden when the Freedom for All Forever Foundation sponsored the gala "Night of the Hurricane" on Dec. 8, 1975.
The event at first appeared to be a financial success. The concert took in $220,578 in box office receipts and, after expenses, netted $108,000.
But the foundation's troubles may have begun when Muhammad Ali walked onstage with a long-haired, youthful-looking man named Eddie Sapir and introduced him to the cheering crowd.
Sapir, a municipal judge in New Orleans promoter named Clyde Carson, announced that another "Niht of the Hurricane" would be held in his city's Superdome!
That engagement fell through, eventually, but Sapir adn Carson subsequently became involved in the promotion of the second major Hurricane Carter benefit, held in Houston's Astrodome.
That concert, accroding to the backers of Freedom for All Forever, led to the downfall of the Hurricane Carter movement.
The New York audit of Carter's fund-raising activities showed that Carson and Sapir paid $154,919 to rent the Astrodome - even though the auditorium's normal rate is $12,500 or 17.5 per cent of the gate, whichever is larger.
In addition, the committee paid $34,282 in hotel room charges for the performers, guests and hangers-on, and $45,609 for travel costs, including $14,000 for a Hughes Airwest charter DC-9 jet - redecorated with a Hurricane Carter slogan on the nose - to transport Dylan and his Rolling Thunder revue from Los Angeles to Houston.
By his own accounting, Carson's share of the hotel bill in Houston for himself and his entourage was nearly $4,000; a backatage catering bill amounted a $8,244, including a tip of $1,030.An aftershow party reportedly cost another $3,366.
in spite of the expenses, the Astrodome was only half-filled at showtime, and the box office receipts were disappointing to the Carter backers.
It was a debacle - a complete disaster," said Webster, who had tried to disassociate Freedom for All Forever from participating in the Houston event. In a telephone interview, Webster said the New York-based Carter Defense Fund had no involvement in the Houston sow other than an agreemtn to "benefit from the proceeds."
However, Blanche Leonard, a director and secretary of the foundation, said in a telephone interview that Freedom for All "sponsored" the Houston concert but allowed Carson, Sapir and Carter - who then was on bail pending his second trial - to make the arrangements. Leonard added that the foundation also negotiated vendor contracts.
Rubin kind of aced us out on this one. He realized they (Carson and Sapir) were entrepreneurs hoping for a profit, but he figured he would get some of the proceeds," Leonard said.
"The Madison Square Garden concert was a professional operation, run by George Lois, who is a pro," said Leonard. "The Astrodome concert was run by well-meaning but amateurish people by wll-meaning but amateruish people with no experience in this sort of thing. It all turned out very negative," Leonard said.
Carson could not be reached for comment.
The Madison Square Garden concert, while more profitable for the Carter defense fund, incurred expenses that are under study by the State Attorney General's office.
The total outlay was more than half the gate receipts, leaving the foundation with a profit of dollars 108,074, and on-going "program services" of the foundation further trimmed the balance eventually given the Carter-Artis defense team.
According to the state audit, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Pos, the Freedom for All Forever Foundation's total "public support and revenue" for the laltes reporting period - the fiscal year ending last March 31 - was $155,183. Total expenses amounted to $145,117, leaving an excess of $8,066.
"The expenses, as far as I am concerned, are fair and reasonable," Webster said, stressing that he was referring to the New York concert and other local fund-raising activities. The foundation also sponsored a march on the Capitol in Trenton, and a concert at the New Jersey minimum security prison in Clinton.
"Nobody I know has benefitted from these activities, except Carter and Artis. In fact, everbody I know has given a great deal of themselves," Webster said.
Leornard said, however, that as a result of the second Carter conviction and "negative publicity" surrounding Carter's alleged asault upon Carolyn Kelley, who previously headed his defense committee, the Freedom for All Forever Foundation stands little change of being successful in fund-raising.
"We're still an entity, but I don't know what success we can have," Leonard said. She added that after the Astrodome concert Carter "began rejecting us. I was very hurt, because a lot of people had worked very hard. But I understood his feelings."