|Cover of Desire|
One day in 1975 Bob Dylan went to Rahway State Prison in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey to visit a prisoner.
But this was no ordinary prisoner. This was Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.
Carter had once been ranked as the #3 contender for the middleweight title.
That was, however, before.
Before three people were murdered during a robbery at the Lafayette Grill in Carter's hometown of Patterson, New Jersey.
Before he and an acquaintance named John Artis were arrested for the crime. Before they were convicted. Before he was given two consecutive terms and one concurrent life term.
After visiting with Carter Dylan became convinced of Carter's innocence (something that Carter himself had always maintained). The result was "Hurricane", the leadoff song from Dylan's bestselling 1976 release "Desire".
Co-written with Jacques Levy, the song is a furious plea for Carter's exoneration for crimes Dylan claimed Carter never committed. Was the "Hurricane" really innocent of the felonies for which he was accused?
"Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night. Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall. She sees the bartender in a pool of blood, Cries out, "My God, they killed them all!"
Let's start with the crime itself. On June 17, 1966 at about 2:30 in the morning two men entered the Lafayette Bar and Grill and opened fire. Two men were killed immediately: the bartender, James Oliver, and a customer named Fred Nauyoks.
A third customer named Hazel Tanis sustained numerous injuries from multiple gunshots and initially survived but died a month afterward. A fourth patron named Willie Marins lived even though he had taken a bullet to the head which rendered him blind in one eye.
The police questioned both Tanis and Marins, who told them that the culprits were black males, but didn't identify Carter or Artis as the criminals.
Patty Valentine was a resident who lived on the second floor above the bar and was one of the first people on the scene after the shooting. She allegedly told police that she witnessed two black men get into a white car and drive away from the bar.
"... Three bodies lyin' there does Patty see. And another man named Bello, movin' around mysteriously ...".
Another person who was on the scene early was a criminal named Alfred Bello. He was in the neighborhood that night to commit a felony of his own, that of a burglary at a factory near the bar.
Initially Bello claimed that as he neared the Lafayette two black men rounded the corner and approached him, one carrying a pistol, the other a shotgun. Bello fled but also claimed to see the pair get into a white car that was double parked near the bar.
Valentine and Bello both described the car to the police. Both descriptions would change after Carter's first trial. Valentine also provided a description of the car's lights which didn't match Carter's car.
You'll soon see that the word of two felons would eventually be enough to send Carter to prison for life. Bello would change his story but Carter would stay in his prison cell.
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