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Dissecting the Flaws in the State’s Case: Jim Pittman’s New York Trip

May 4, 2024
By Joe Hunt

The prosecution advanced a bizarre theory that Jim Pittman attempted to impersonate Ron Levin by staying at the Plaza Hotel in New York under Levin’s name. This part of their argument suggested an elaborate ruse to mislead authorities, crafting a narrative that Levin vanished in New York rather than Beverly Hills. This claim forms a critical piece of the complex puzzle presented in the courtroom.

Problems with the Prosecution’s Theory

Jim Pittman
Ron Levin

This theory is preposterous. Pittman was a 5’9″, 210-pound, dark-black male with a short-cropped afro and the memorable physique of a bodybuilder. Ron Levin was 6’1.5″, 145-pound Jewish man with a very pale complexion and silver-white hair. Are we supposed to believe that the plan was to have Pittman check in to the Plaza and stay for several days at a 5-star, concierge-led hotel as an attempt to impersonate Ronald George Levin (a.k.a. Ronald Glick)?

Furthermore, I called witnesses from the hotel who testified that Pittman hired a limousine through the hotel and had it drive him to the homes of friends and family on a two-day excursion along the East Coast. The limousine driver, Frank Vassallo, testified at my trial in San Mateo. As one would expect, he had a log of Pittman’s itinerary. He recalled Pittman being expansive and loquacious, describing the residents’ connection to him at every stop.

The Real Reason for Pittman’s Actions

Pittman wasn’t trying to impersonate anyone. What, then, was he doing using Levin’s American Express Card on this showy junket to New York?

I testified that contrary to what the State’s immunized witness, Dean Karny, had told them, Pittman knew Levin. Two witnesses, Len Marmor (Levin’s long-term neighbor and best friend) and Jon Riley (a scam-related associate of Levin’s), testified that they had seen Jim Pittman at Levin’s house on occasion.

“Are we supposed to believe that the plan was to have Pittman check in to the Plaza and stay for several days at a 5-star, concierge-led hotel as an attempt to impersonate Ronald George Levin?”

Dean Karny’s testimony was that the very first time Levin met Pittman was as the alleged murder scenario unfolded. I supposedly arrived at Levin’s with Pittman in tow and told Levin that Pittman represented some mobsters to whom I owed money. Karny claimed that I presented the situation as one in which Pittman was mob muscle sent to collect from Levin on the debt he owed me so that I could repay them. Thus, Levin was to be told that I was as much under the gun as he was.

Of course, the proof that Pittman and Levin had a preexisting social/business relationship discredited this scenario.

My testimony was that Pittman had Levin’s American Express Card because Levin had, of his own volition and, according to his own plan, given it to him. Bear in mind that this was just another one of Levin’s scammed credit cards. He had a huge balance (over $55,000) and did not intend to pay it off. Further, since he was going fugitive, he had no further use for it. Pittman said that Levin had offered the card after hearing about how much Pittman wanted to see his folks on the East Coast. Pittman presumably knew that Ron’s card was a ‘burner’ card, so his charges would not come out of his patron’s pocket. This was just two crooks trading favors. As we know from Pittman’s pre-BBC Grand Theft charge out of West Virginia, he wasn’t above a little bit of larceny.

In retrospect, however, Levin appeared to have had deeper goals in maneuvering Pittman to use his credit card.

Pittman’s Actions Undermine the Prosecution’s Case

In sum, the evidence of Pittman’s lark in New York is inconsistent with the State’s theory. His behavior was blatantly inconsistent with any effort to leave a false trail. Indeed, when his exorbitant and extended use of the AMEX Card beyond its limits caused charges to be rejected and his room locked, he made a huge ruckus, leading to his arrest.

Pittman’s conduct showed absolutely no concern that he would be tied to the card. Using it to hire a limousine to take him to family and friends’ houses proves that. If he knew he was using a dead man’s card, he plainly would have tried to be inconspicuous and would not have used the card in New York in any way that would have tied him as a memorably built black man to it.

Thus, rather than strengthening the State’s case, Pittman’s New York trip and use of the AMEX Card seriously undermines it. Pittman’s actions were wholly inconsistent with the State’s murder theory.

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An Alternative Theory: Levin’s Plan

John Fuhrman, a retired attorney, after reading the above article, offered these comments:

This makes perfect sense (as does Joe’s other article about Pittman’s dubious testimony). I would also point out that, yes, Levin was notorious for starting up businesses and obtaining credit cards, American Express cards in particular, in the names of those businesses. Levin would run up the card debt, and even if the card issuers wanted to pursue him individually, he was judgment-proof. Most of us who’ve practiced law have been exposed, at one point or another, to the seedy underbelly of society. Hence, I know what a “burner card” is.

However, Joe should consider this, my original “theory.” All the evidence points to the fact that Ron Levin was getting ready to run. He was facing serious prison time by now. Tragically, not addressed by Joe’s lead counsel at the first trial was the fact that Levin had access to nearly half a million dollars — far more than what Joe’s defense attorney represented to the Jury during the trial. A half a million dollars, to a man like Levin, is enough seed money to keep him in profitable scams for the remainder of his life.  Levin was almost certainly preparing to go on the lamb in June 1984.

The evidence in support of this is beyond being merely compelling.  However, I doubt Levin offered Pittman his “burner” AmEx Gold Card out of gratitude or a desire to aid a friend in his desire to travel back to the East Coast. No, Levin was undoubtedly aware that when law enforcement searches for bail jumpers, they first look at the fugitive’s credit card statements to determine where that fugitive is. Rather than Joe sending Pittman to NYC to masquerade as Levin, it was Levin who sent Pittman to NYC to give the appearance that he was in NYC when, in fact, he was really miles away — elsewhere with a big head start on the authorities in both in time and distance.

That is how the Ron Levins of the world think. I am sure that Ron Levin laughed his head off when reading in the newspapers about Karney’s testimony that Joe sent Pittman to NYC to pretend to be Levin when it was really Levin who sent Pittman to NYC to pretend to be Levin.

Consider my theory. 


And here is Joe’s response to John’s theory:

Very likely true.

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