Petitions Signed
  • Boys Club Sentencing:

    Reza Eslaminia:
    served 12 years

    Jim Pittman:
    Time Served

    Dean Karny:
    Immune from prosecution

    Joe Hunt:still incarcerated

  • California Penal Code Section 4852.05, Commutations:

    "The person shall live an honest and upright life, shall conduct himself or herself with sobriety and industry, shall exhibit a good moral character, and shall conform to and obey the laws of the land."

  • while is prison, Joe has:

    never engaged in violent conflict

    RAISED $1,000,000 FOR HIS CHURCH



  • Joe Hunt is the first person to:

    Force discovery from the Los Angeles Police Department of an ongoing murder investigation file.

    Successfully serve as his own lawyer in a capital case

    Pass the CPA exam at the age of 18

Joe Hunt to petition for compassionate release

In addition to health issues, Hunt’s petition points to numerous trial irregularities and new laws that call for reductions in the sentences of youth offenders

September 4, 2020

Joe Hunt is now 60 years old and is petitioning for a commutation from Governor Gavin Newsom. Arrested at age 24, Hunt is asking for a sentence reduction, citing numerous trial irregularities, his vulnerability to covid, compounded by a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, and his exemplary prison record.

“It’s a tragic waste — both of taxpayer resources and of a life that could have been spent contributing to society,” said Joe’s brother-in-law Michael Olivier. “Look at all of the things Joe has accomplished while in prison and imagine what could have been.”

Those who have become familiar with the facts know that Hunt has spent his more than three decades of incarceration applying himself to good causes.

As a clerk in the prison law library, he has to date helped over 30 fellow inmates successfully obtain relief from unjust sentences or convictions. Using his financial know-how, Hunt raised over $1 million dollars for his church. And Hunt formed the first men’s support group in his prison. Two prison chaplains, three corrections officers, and his Correctional Counselor have contributed letters on his behalf, praising his conduct and supporting his release.

“In my opinion, Hunt has no inclinations to re-offend,” wrote Correctional Officer M. Saesee. “I would place him solidly in the top one percent as far as suitability for reintegration with society.” Chaplain William Goeke similarly praised Hunt, writing, “The other men look to him for direction and encouragement… his is a voice of healing and compassion.”

The letters from chaplains and prison officials are just a small sample of more than 500 submitted on Hunt’s behalf, all part of a campaign that also includes a staggering 26,000 signatures on a petition supporting Hunt’s release.

Olivier also points to many encouraging developments in California law in the years since Hunt was put behind bars. Based on a greater understanding of cognitive development in young adults, in 2014, California created a system of youth offender parole hearings for inmates whose crimes were committed before the age of 18. Then in 2018, the law was expanded, and the special parole hearings are now offered to inmates sentenced before age 26.

However, those recent changes in youth offender laws exclude inmates who were sentenced to life without parole — which includes Hunt.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Olivier said. “A young adult is a young adult, and if we recognize that sentences which failed to take brain development into account were flawed, then life without parole sentences must be doubly so.”

Though they have found the expansion of opportunities for youth offenders somewhat heartening, Hunt’s family knows they can’t just sit back and wait for the law to evolve — not with Joe’s heart condition, his advancing age, and the coronavirus pandemic. Federal officials also have recognized the increased urgency of compassionate release. U.S. Attorney General William Barr recently ordered officials running federal prisons to immediately maximize the release of prisoners to home confinement during the pandemic.

Hunt was convicted of murder in a case with no body and no physical evidence — only a man who disappeared while out on bail as he faced an FBI investigation for grand theft and fraud. And that questionable starting point led to even more troubling questions about the manner in which the trial was conducted, including an incompetent trial lawyer with a substantial conflict of interest, and a judge who harbored a documented personal conflict with a member of the defense team.

There are substantive reasons to believe that Hunt did not receive a fair trial, says attorney Gary K. Dubcoff. In a scathing 26-page letter supporting Hunt’s commutation, Dubcoff details at length many evidentiary, procedural, legal, and ethical flaws in Hunt’s trial.

The justice system simply did not work in Hunt’s case, Dubcoff says. “I have been practicing criminal trial and appellate work for over three decades, and I have rarely, if ever, seen such a concerted effort on the part of the judiciary to turn a blind eye to facts,” he wrote. Hunt was “convicted by a deplorable combination of judicial misconduct and incompetent, corrupt representation.”

One of the oddest aspects of Hunt’s conviction that points to an unreliable verdict revolves around alleged gunman James Pittman.

Hunt was not sentenced to life in prison for pulling the trigger himself, but because a jury was led to believe he had ordered Pittman to do so.

Yet Pittman’s jury, with additional evidence not discovered until after Hunt’s conviction, acquitted Pittman of the shooting, an outcome totally at odds with that of Hunt’s case.

“It’s baffling,” Olivier said. “How can you think a guy who we learned didn’t shoot anyone was also, somehow, simultaneously forced to shoot someone? Both of these things can’t be true.”

Hunt’s petition to Governor Newsom makes use of all of these arguments: flaws in his trial, the movement to save taxpayer dollars by granting compassionate release to prisoners with health problems, the threat of coronavirus behind bars, his spiritual rehabilitation, his record of nonviolence, his service to fellow inmates and his church, his age at sentencing, and his advancing age today.

“Being 60 years old with a heart condition means Joe is at the highest risk for covid, but the lowest risk for reoffending,” Olivier said. “Everyone in our church is praying that the governor takes notice of that and Joe’s 35 years of peaceful behavior and lets us bring him back home.”

Joe Hunt’s appellate attorney writes scathing report of injustice to Governor Newsom

Below is an abridged summary of a report that Joe Hunt’s appellate attorney, Gary Dubcoff, wrote this month (August 2020) to provide to Governor Newsom. The full 26-page report is here.

My name is Gary K. Dubcoff, and I represented Joe Hunt for years as his postconviction counsel in federal court.  As a result of that work, I am intimately familiar with the record facts of his case, and just how badly our criminal justice system went awry. Indeed, I have been practicing criminal trial and appellate work for over three decades, and I have rarely, if ever, seen such a concerted effort on the part of the judiciary to turn a blind eye to those facts.  I will set out below a summary of the most salient of these facts, and, although it may be difficult to believe many of them, I can state with surety that they are supported by the record citations that accompany them (any or all of which documents I would promptly submit upon request).

Mr. Hunt did not receive justice.  “[E]xecutive clemency exists to provide relief from harshness or mistake in the judicial system ….”  (Ohio Adult Parole Authority v. Woodard (1998) 523 U.S. 272, 284-285.)  Having been informed that the Governor’s Office of Legal Affairs/Pardons takes seriously that precept and believes that the presence of trial irregularities should be considered in a commutation application, I thought it worthwhile to summarize them.  This narrative is rather lengthy in order to make clear just how far short of dispensing justice our system operated in Mr. Hunt’s case.

The short of it is that his trial was presided over by a trial judge who, in between making leeringly misogynistic and homophobic comments and gestures because that was who he was, abandoned all pretense of impartiality, striving mightily at every turn to ensure his conviction, the facts be damned; and Mr. Hunt was represented by an incompetent attorney – in a capital case, this lawyer performed no pretrial investigation(!) – who sold him up the river for lucre and self-interest. 

One unique fact bears highlight, because it establishes the damage done by the trial judge and Mr. Hunt’s lawyer in the first of his two murder trials.

In Mr. Hunt’s second trial, the prosecution’s strategy began with trying to convince the jury that he had in fact committed the first murder for which he had already been convicted. But that effort backfired spectacularly without the burden of a biased judge and corrupt lawyer.

Even though they were informed of his earlier conviction, the second-trial jurors were convinced that there had been no murder at all, and that the alleged victim was alive following his purported murder. 

It is to the everlasting shame of the judicial system that, without legal cause, every reviewing court adamantly refused to take into consideration what those actual jurors stated under oath, acting as if that stark proof of the prejudicial impact of all that went wrong in Mr. Hunt’s first trial did not exist at all.  It is, in no small measure, the reason that he remains incarcerated and must plead for executive grace – in my view, his conviction should long since have been overturned.

(To see the full report, click here.)

Joe Hunt cofounded the first men’s group in a California prison

Joe Hunt with his wife, Jamie

I was a founding member of the first men’s group in a California prison. We held our meetings at B facility, California State Prison at Sacramento, also known as New Folsom. In attendance was Robert Albee, a free man and published poet with considerable experience in men’s groups on the street, and Pat Nolan a convict who had met Robert through correspondence.

The first meeting of the men’s group was held after we came off a particularly long lockdown in 1996, which was instituted after a particularly bloody and violent riot that occurred on the yard. Pat was hoping that men’s work, along the lines of what was taking place in circles of men which had formed in the outside world, could create bridges of familiarity, understanding, and respect Behind the Walls.

Men’s work is a particular process that gives one an opportunity to look at one’s emotional response to life. A man does work, with the aid of the circle, and typically one of the men facilitates. I was tasked with establishing a men’s group on C-Yard at New Folsom in 1998. Under the auspices of Deacon Dennis Moreno, our Catholic chaplain at New Folsom, I did so. In time the circle thrived and was still functioning 14 years later when I left New Folsom. For the first 10 years, I was the clerk in charge of the program and one of the main facilitators. Intensive 4-day trainings were held at C Facility every few months while I was clerking as a facilitating for the program. These trainings would typically involve 30 or 40 men from the outside world, and many came from other countries, joining us behind the walls for 12 to 14 hour sessions on four consecutive days. What took place in such meetings became a subject matter for the documentary, which was filmed after I left New Folsom.

Here is some information about a documentary made about this men’s group, from after my involvement with it ended:

Ron Levin: His Criminal History, Documented

The following FBI documents describe how Ron Levin (alias Ronald Rothchild, alias Ronald Levine, alias Sam Goldberg, alias Ronald Weatherby) got out from under FBI charges of bank larceny for passing $250,000 in fake checks: by disappearing.

When the Beverly Hills Police department decided that Joe Hunt was the suspect, with no body and only circumstantial evidence, the letter says, “no further investigation will be conducted.”


When investigators began connecting the dots and began looking into Levin’s criminal history, they compiled a list that was “just a sample” of what police had on file under his name: grand theft, battery, stolen property, a stolen vehicle, harassment, robbery (indicated as “211”), burglary, and an alleged drug act involving a minor.

When investigators went to Levin’s listed place of employment, they found that the address was a fake: nothing more than a mailbox in an office building.











In an FBI interview with a corporate security administrator for Fidelity Group, investigators learned that Ron Levin deposited bad checks into two accounts and immediately attempted to  withdraw the funds. Following Levin’s suspicious activities, Fidelity hired an investigator, who learned that Levin had an extensive criminal history and had over 100 civil court filings against him, and had associates in organized crime.

In an interview in which Joe Hunt discussed the infamous “to do” list that was part of his trial, Joe mentioned the multitude of lawsuits Levin faced, and how they left the unrepentant con man unfazed.

“The idea of civilly suing him — it’s just like, get in line,” Joe said. Levin had boasted to Boys Club members that he was an expert at converting criminal fraud into a civil matter to avoid arrest, so legal action simply didn’t seem like a meaningful option.

Joe explained that the list was written out not as a literal plan of action, but part of a desperate ploy to intimidate Levin into paying back funds he had swindled from Joe and Joe’s investors.










Levin tried to pull a similar bank fraud with Progressive Savings and Loan, as detailed in the following letters to the U.S. Attorney:








Further FBI investigation revealed that Levin also heisted a drawing by Andy Warhol from an art gallery, and then offered his “services” to the gallery to help recover it.







Then there was Levin’s theft of $500,000 (in 1980s dollars!) worth of video and photographic equipment, detailed in this story from the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner that called Levin’s loot a “One-man video warehouse.”

The story illustrates that Levin’s criminal history ran the gamut from sophisticated cons to common thievery.

Joe discusses his dream of starting a family.

Joe Hunt discusses how if had he been released, he and his wife would have hoped for children.


Well, we would’ve wanted to have children, we’ve discussed that. But unfortunately, that ship has sailed.

I mean, she’s four years younger than I, and so, we’re both passed that really. I mean, theoretically possible, potentially, but it’s ill-advised at our ages.

But we even had a name for our daughter, should we have one.

When we first met and shortly before we married we were talking about it. I had some hope at that time that I’d be released by action of the courts, so we had a name for our little girl in mind.

So, that’s a point of sadness and regret for me, and her as well.

Interview: Joe Hunt discusses the sixteen people he helped to receive sentence reductions.

Joe Hunt discusses the sixteen people he helped avoid a life sentence and the dozens that received sentence reductions.


Well yes, I’ve been working, I’ve done habeas petitions and I’ve litigated on behalf of other prisoners.

I’ve also been trying to have them freed, to vacate their conviction, and so, over the years I’ve filed dozens and dozens of—probably close to something like 150—petitions on separate cases.

And I’ve also helped prisoners when I was in the county jail in San Mateo for four years, and I was in Los Angeles County Jail for almost five years total.

I helped other prisoners that were pro per, acting as a mentor to develop the theory of the case, investigate their case, and understand the rules, evidence, and to prosecute their sentence theory.

Anyhow, in total, the sixteen people that I’ve helped either avoided a life sentence because they were acquitted or were released by the courts.

In addition, there were dozens of cases of sentencing reduction.

Joe explains how he chose which inmates to offer legal assistance to.

Joe Hunt explains how he chose which inmates to offer legal assistance to, and several ways that he did this.


So you asked about what sort of results I’ve gotten for other prisoners who’ve been seeking to either overturn their conviction or to be acquitted at trial.

I’ve spent 9 years of my life in county jails, about half in L.A. county jail and half in San Mateo, about 7 of those years while I was actively pro per—which means representing myself. So, many prisoners came to me to ask for help with their cases.

I was very selective about who I chose to assist, and factors about what they were charged with and who they were played a major role.

I was not interested in helping people that I felt were what I would call sick with it; in other words, they were going to choose the criminal lifestyle…

In any event, there have been sixteen people that were either facing life sentences or had life sentences that I’ve assisted to regain their freedom—about evenly split between people that I mentored while I was in county jail so that they would be acquitted.

These were guys that were representing themselves and people that I filed habeas petitions for, or on behalf of, from prison that were released by the courts.

In addition, there were dozens of people that got reductions in sentences as a result of petitions that I filed.

Video: Joe Hunt describes his theory of what happened to Ron Levin.

Joe talks about what he thinks happened to Ron Levin. It’s likely that Levin jumped bail, especially in light of witness accounts that Levin was researching Brazilian extradition treaties and had inquired about dyeing his hair.


I have thought about this a great deal over the years and tried to extrapolate what he would do or did in that situation so you know, his actual fate as a matter of personal knowledge is a mystery to me because my last point of contact with him was June 5th.

So far as I can reconstruct and recall, what I have seen of course is the same eyewitness accounts that my jury in San Mateo heard, about people in some cases had prior
relationships with Ron, had been over to his house, as Gerard had been for dinner, or had contact with him like Robbie Robinson and had seen him subsequently.

So those eyewitness reports, and some of them were asked to take polygraphs, and the ones who were asked took polygraphs passed them with flying colors. And so those reports have been persuasive to me of the fact that Ron Levin was alive through the last sighting, which was three years after his disappearance in Mykonos, the island of Mykonos in Greece.

I’ve also, since I’ve worked so hard on this case, I’ve seen the testimony and read interviews
of people like Oliver Wendell Holmes (no relationship to the great jurist), but he was employed by Levin to work on Levin’s pending criminal cases. The charges Levin was facing before he disappeared and he said that Levin was discussing with him and researching Brazil’s extradition treaties and policies, which I find highly suspicious.

How many people are doing that right before they jump bail?

You know and then furthermore, John Duran, his hairdresser at the time said that Levin called him right before he disappeared and asked him how do I dye my hair. And then detective Les Douler tells us that brown stains that he tested and were not from blood but there was some brown staining in the porcelain of Levin’s bathtub which would be consistent with some last minute change to his hair color.

Now when he was seen late in ’86 and ’87, he had his gray hair, so the postulate and the hypothesis is that Levin initially decided to change his hair but didn’t like it and letting it grow back out grey by when he was seen in Tucson Arizona and when he was seen on the island of Mykonos.

Levin’s grey hair was one of his most striking features people say that he was kind of a he had a very distinctive look back in ’84, in ’83 in Beverly Hills. He graced the cover of a magazine once.

Anyhow, so based on the information evidence that I’ve seen and also based on statements of Levin made in my presence where he said that he would never go back to prison. I deduced a long time ago that he fled and when he was no longer available after June 6, 1984 and I couldn’t get a hold of him and I heard other people couldn’t get a hold of him, and by June 24th I had concluded that he had fled.

He had a pending case so he couldn’t just up and leave without violating the terms of his bail and he wouldn’t just violate the terms of his bail unless he intentionally fled so that was the conclusion I reached and I think it’s the conclusion the Beverly Hills Department reached for the first couple of months as well.

Joe Hunt describes how the bleakness of prison life can lead to suicide.

Joe describes how the bleakness of prison life can lead to thoughts of suicide.


Yes, I’ve been on yards that were so dark, I mean what we’re talking about is referred to in the prison system as active mainlines—like active level 4 mainlines in the California system.

An extremely dysfunctional society exists—as tribal—and the men are under tremendous pressure, and it’s bleak.

So, a lot of people commit suicide.

They don’t do it necessarily by hanging themselves, most often it’s a drug overdose. And a number of people that are brought back from overdoses now is really high because they have a special drug that they use to bring them back.

Otherwise, most of these people would have been successful. But you know, the level of despondency, despair, depression, as a result of the conditions of confinement, on active main lines is high.

And what was called the SHU, Special Housing Unit, for a number of years had guys that were doing 20-30 years behind walls, with no outside exercise other than what we call a dog run, which is just like a 10×10 cement area opened to the sky.

They get an hour of that or something a day, so in that level of misery, suicide becomes something that many people think about, a lot of people attempt, and of course, tragically some people succeed at.

That is probably the most primary and basic offense against the spirit—against the human spirit—possible.

Joe Hunt and the miracle of the donuts

Joe Hunt describes an uncanny experience involving law enforcement, donuts, and his spiritual beliefs.


It was 1987, I was in the Los Angeles County Jail in what they call the high power wing. So with me are people that have had fights and serious disciplinary problems in L.A. County Jail, people that are down from the penitentiary that are considered potential threats to the security of the institution, and high profile cases like myself.

So I got my own cell along this tier, and I’d just finished reading the Autobiography of a Yogi, which is considered the crest jewel of all spiritual autobiographies by many people—and I think the most read autobiography of all time. Anyhow, I’ve just finished the book, and the book is full of stories of things that are beyond all of our experiences. I mean levitating things, the power of prayer, various manifestations of spiritual beings and entities.

I’ve finished reading the book, I’m lying down on my bunk, the book’s on my chest, and I’m thinking, nothing in my life is in any way…I’ve had no experiences on that level at all. However, I was also thinking that the tone of the author—the way the book was written—I couldn’t imagine that the guy would make it up. The author seemed so sincere, had a great style, was witty, knowledgeable… I couldn’t… it just didn’t make any sense that it was a fabricated story. So, I’m thinking those things and my thoughts conclude with, “But I couldn’t pray for a bag of donuts and get them.”

And just at that moment, I heard a key turn in the lock at the end of the corridor, to which the cells of high power are opened. Anyhow I heard this key turn, I heard some boots coming, and I looked up—and there stopping in front of my cell was a deputy sheriff of the Los Angeles County Jail system. And he looked at me, and I didn’t know this guy, mind you, I had no interaction with him. He said—and he was holding a bag of donuts—and he looks at me and he says, “Hi, would you like some donuts?”

It was kind of an uncanny experience, and I’m not saying that I started believing or having any faith in prayer at that time, because I didn’t, but it put me back on my heels so to speak and made me think a bit. I started meditating as a result of an invitation in the autobiography, and I’ve been doing so ever since for 30 years.

Joe Hunt talks more about the “claim of right” defense

Joe Hunt talks more about the Claim of Right Defense.


So if the jury had been properly instructed, and had received the law on the Claim of Right Defense, based upon the prosecution’s own theory of the case, they would have had to acquit me of robbery.

If I had been acquitted of robbery, and the special circumstance of robbery, I would not now be doing life without.

I would have received at most a sentence of 25 to life, and I would have been parole eligible like 20 years ago.

So, you know, this is a sort of issue, which because of legal procedural rules, the place to raise it is at trial and certain waiver and negligence documents take hold after you have been convicted. I didn’t learn of this legal theory until 1988 when I read a case called People v. Tufunga, which was a California Supreme Court decision on the Claim of Right Defense in the case of Mr. Tufunga.

Free Joe Hunt

If you believe in hope, justice, and rehabilitation, join our cause, and give hope not only to Joe Hunt, but to prisoners everywhere sentenced to life without parole -- "the other death penalty."