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Night of the Hurricane (Or Was it Just an Idiot Wind?)

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Carter and Artis were sentenced to triple life sentences in Rahway State Prison. Like many convicts, Carter became a prison lawyer and hammered away at appeals. He wrote his autobiography and started picking up outside support.

The first was a writer, Richard Solomon, who wrote to Carter with the idea of a TV movie on his life. Solomon later introduced Carter to a man who became his most ardent supporter: George Lois, a partner in a Madison Avenue advertising firm. Lois eventually spent about $60,000 out of his own pocket, even though ad accounts had pressured him to quit helping the "mad dog." Later, he was eased out of Freedom for All Forever, the Carter defense committee he'd help run. But he doesn't regret his involvement:

"I am convinced of his innocence," he said. "He got framed left and right. And I just made up my mind. I looked him in the eye and made up my mind that I would help him get out of jail and get a new trial."

Lois raised money and arranged for the first Carter benefit, called "Night of the Hurricane," December 8th, 1975, in Madison Square Garden.

"I convinced Bobby [Dylan] to have that in New York because he had made statements about not going into a big amphitheater with his tour, and I went up to New Haven and got down on my knees and asked him to help Rubin. He bit his tongue and said, 'Goddamn it,' he'll do it. And we thought we could get a lot of black talent. We had people like Marvin Gaye, a whole bunch saying, yes, they'll do it. At the last minute they couldn't, and finally Bobby said, 'The hell with it, I'll come in with my whole revue."'

Photos: Bob Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue

That benefit was the watershed in Carter's publicity campaign. It raised about $100,000 for the defense fund. And there was an undeniable euphoria engendered by the presence of Dylan, Joan Baez, Muhammad Ali and Coretta King on one stage, united in a common cause. There was no reason to think that further benefits across the country would not raise a groundswell of popular support that would, in Baez' words at Madison Square, "tear down the prison walls and free Rubin." Indeed, in the wake of the Garden show. Hurricane himself entertained the thought, there in his prison cell, of a series of benefits with Dylan, the Who, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and who knows who else? The notion of big bucks fueling liberal altruism was heady. Freedom for All Forever might not only serve to pay Carter's retinue of heavy-duty lawyers, but also fulfill the original premise of helping prisoners other than Rubin Carter.

Oddly, although "Night of the Hurricane" was Carter's big coming-out, the "Night of the Hurricane II" was already well under way. The first public clue of that was provided at Madison Square when Muhammad Ali trotted out onto the stage with a young-looking, 38-year-old, long-haired, flamboyantly dressed man named Eddie Sapir. He is a municipal judge and former city councilman in New Orleans and is talked about there as a future mayor (he did not object when a reporter called him the second most powerful man in New Orleans, after Mayor Moon Landrieu). Sapir invited the crowd to come to the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans for more Hurricane doings.

"We in the deep South are interested in justice," he said. "We'll go to New Orleans and continue the job."

Sapir had already met with Hurricane to plan a second benefit. His connection with Carter was purely accidental, he has since said. Besides being a judge, he is a practicing attorney in New Orleans and one of his clients had earlier talked with George Lois about Hurricane's case.

That client was Clyde Carson, 35. Carson and Sapir first met in December 1972, when Carson was a salesman for a sign company in Las Vegas, Ad Art by name. The Louisiana Superdome — a publicly financed facility in New Orleans — was beginning to let construction bids and Ad Art wanted the scoreboard contract.

Ad Art flew a group of Superdome Commission members out to Las Vegas to view its products. Included on this junket was then city councilman Eddie Sapir, though he was not a commission member (nor was he formally invited). He and Carson became friends and Carson retained Sapir as Ad Art's New Orleans attorney. On Sapir's recommendation, another city councilman, Phil Ciaccio, was retained by Ad Art as attorney. Finally, Sapir's law partner Joe Bishop was added to the legal team. Ad Art, with its heavy legal representation, was able to gel the $4.5 million scoreboard contract even though it was high bidder. That deal kicked up a lot of dust in New Orleans, what with publicly elected officials making money off of a public facility, and Carson, Sapir, et al. were investigated by a legislative committee which concluded, at great length, that the proceedings were unethical but not illegal.

At any rate, Carson became friends with Beauregard Redmond, executive vice-president of the Bank of New Orleans, where he did his Ad Art banking. On March 18th, 1974, over a year before he moved to New Orleans from Las Vogas, Carson incorporated a company of his own in New Orleans.

Clyde Carson had a foot in New Orleans' door. And he had a powerful friend in Eddie Sapir. Talk to anybody who is anybody in New Orleans and you get the message: Eddie Sapir is a man to be reckoned with. They still talk about the time when the Allman Brothers opened the Superdome with a big show August 31st, 1975. When Phil Walden hit town he didn't like the looks of the advance sales and the funny two-drinks-in-a-local-restaurant offer included with your Allman tickets, and he thought about pulling the Allmans out. People in New Orleans say that Sapir threatened to have state policemen surround the Allmans' hotel, the Marie Antoinette, that he also threatened to have state cops sitting on the band's equipment and was ready to look the whole entourage up if they screwed up the Superdome's opening. Sapir says it's "totally false and erroneous." Phil Walden says he can't say much about it since he still has a lawsuit pending about that show, a $1.3 million suit against Pace Management of Houston, which promoted the show. Walden contends the gate was much larger than the 55,000 he was paid for. Walden recalls that Pace hired Sapir to get an injunction to impound the Allmans' equipment. Eddie says it was all friendly but that, as Pace's attorney, he was prepared to take action if the Allmans performed concertus interruptus.

Eddie Sapir is not a man to be trifled with. He has survived repeated investigations by the Metropolitan Crime Commission (a citizens' watchdog agency in New Orleans), the New Orleans Police Department and other law enforcement agencies for alleged narcotics smuggling and loans made through a bankrupt credit union. He's been more than once linked in print with the Carlos Marcello family, the underworld lords of New Orleans. The president of Sapir's Super City Boxing — which stages matches — is one Salvadore Segreto, who is also manager of Broussard's, a Marcello-owned restaurant. The Metropolitan Crime Commission did prove that Sapir helped Broussard's get its liquor license.

Clyde Carson first talked with George Lois about Hurricane Carter on November 6th, 1975. Carson then called up Eddie Sapir, eager to tell him the tale of injustice in New Jersey, Sapir was not familiar with the case but expressed interest. He is not unfamiliar with the boxing world; besides being vice-president of Super City Boxing in New Orleans, he has as a legal client Willie Pastrano, the former light-heavyweight champion. George Lois gave them copies of Hurricane's autobiography. Sapir got copies of the transcripts of Hurricane's trial and became convinced that Hurricane had been framed. (Sapir later told Rolling Stone that one of the plusses of the benefit was that Hurricane "started more of his clubs like the fan-club-type thing, you know, 'Free Rubin Carter,' they had a name for it, I forget what it was.")

On a visit to New York, they went out to see Hurricane in prison, taking Pastrano along. Sapir: "I brought Willie Pastrano there to, you know, kinda talk with Rubin about who we were, and they could communicate with each other much better, than so to speak with our side. They'd been in the ring and they could understand each other. A guy like Rubin Carter would be very reluctant, hesitant, you know, didn't want to get involved with some strangers. The normal feeling [might be] well, hey, this might not all be the truth, you know, not moneywise, but it might be some kind of sabotage move and he certainly didn't need any more wounds. The best way that Rubin could really understand that we were some people that were really trying to help Rubin's cause was to bring a guy like Willie there to communicate."

Sapir was detained and roughly questioned by prison guards who found liquor in his briefcase, but otherwise the trio had a pleasant visit with Carter. They decided that support from outside the New Jersey-New York area could help Carter, especially a benefit in the 80,000-seat Superdome in New Orleans. They decided to do it in late December.

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