Petitions Signed

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.

Free copy of Joe’s novel Blue Dharma

Hello Supporters!

As a token of his appreciation for your attention and support, Joe has asked us to share a special gift: a free copy of his novel, Blue Dharma: The Story of Anaiyailla, which he co-authored with his cellmate Alan Adams. Recounting the struggle between good and evil, this book is complete with Demons, Elves, and other mythical creatures.

“This enthralling tale, the first of a four-part series, bears much similarity to The Lord of the Rings trilogy; fans of fantasy fiction who aren’t drawn to the tale’s spiritual aspects will still find a great deal to enjoy…. A winning and complex fantasy tale.” — Kirkus Book Reviews

A word from Joe about the novel and of the title:

“The collaboration with Alan Adams on this series has proven to be one of the more rewarding experiences of my life. Starting with Alan’s seed-thought seven years ago, it has grown far beyond our first expectations. Blue is the color of prisoners, but it is also the color of this planet and the astral world. Dharma, from the Sanskrit root dhri, “to uphold or support,” in simple terms, means religion or righteousness. In a deeper sense, it refers to the eternal laws that uphold the divine order of the universe and of man, its microcosm. It is written that Man should perform virtuous dharma so that he can free himself from the laws of cause and effect and thereby realize his true nature as spirit.”

Download your free PDF of the book below, and check out the links to help you convert to your favorite eReader format. Happy reading! We sure hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


Katherine and Michael


Blue Dharma Novel (PDF)

How to convert pdf for Kindle

How to convert pdf to ePUB for Nook and Kobo

P.S. If you’d like us to publish a version already converted to ePUB format, let us know!

The Joe Hunt Case: The Basics

In 1988, one true crime story dominated the news cycle: The Billionaire Boys Club.

Three decades later, the story has faded from the tabloids, but it remains the painful present-day reality of club leader Joe Hunt, who remains in prison, serving a sentence of life without possibility of parole for a murder he maintains that he did not commit.

Hunt readily admits to financial misdeeds — he became the unwitting head of a ponzi scheme when a con man named Ron Levin bilked him out of a half million of his investors’ dollars, leaving Joe holding the bag. The 23-year-old Hunt naively overextended himself when he took Levin at his word that he would fund a large commodities investment intended to repay investors with a handsome profit. Instead, Levin assured Hunt he could proceed with a purchase made with nonexistent funds. That’s when law enforcement got involved.

Soon after, Levin, who was out on bail and facing an FBI investigation for grand theft and fraud, went missing. In response to police inquiries, the rich kids of the Billionaire Boys club directed attention away from themselves and pointed to Joe, the scholarship kid. Prosecutors decided to charge Joe with Levin’s murder, even with no body and no forensic evidence.

In addition to defending their client, Joe’s lawyers were burdened with the task of filing a judicial misconduct motion for mistrial after Judge Laurence Rittenband, well known as a “prosecutor’s judge,” slapped one member of the defense team with a gag order, leaving a workload meant to be divided among two lawyers to just one.

A Los Angeles Times article about the judge’s conduct explained that the mistrial motion raised charges that “Rittenband deliberately elicited prejudicial evidence against Hunt by questioning witnesses, that he belittled and banished defense staff from the courtroom, that he frequently refused to allow the defense to approach the bench to voice objections and that he aligned himself with the prosecution by grimacing, smirking and showing impatience and disbelief at crucial points in the defense’s cross-examination of witnesses.”

Ultimately, Hunt’s media notoriety (which extended to a fictionalized 1980s made-for-TV movie and a 2018 version of his story starring Kevin Spacey) worked against him in the trial, and he was sentenced to life without possibility of parole — which many observers characterized as an unjust sentence, especially in a murder case with no physical evidence — not even a body. Hunt’s sentence is an anomaly, not comparable to those of his fellow Boys Club members or even far more notorious criminals. For example, even the psychopathic cult leader Charles Manson was granted several opportunities to go before a parole board for his role in multiple murders. Yet Hunt has has never been granted the right to a parole board hearing.

Grants of parole consideration are made not by guilt or innocence, but by an evaluation of an inmate’s rehabilitation, as well as an evaluation of any threat they may pose to public safety. Hunt hangs his hopes on a commutation petition that, if granted, would give him the opportunity to go before a parole board. Hunt, if given the opportunity, could make a strong case. His prison record is blemish-free, and his commutation application includes many letters of support, including letters from prison guards and chaplains.

“In my opinion, Hunt has no inclination to re-offend. All of his activities appear directed towards positive goals,” wrote a correctional officer from Pleasant Valley State Prison. “He has a reputation for helping others. I would place him solidly in the top one percent as far as suitability for reintegration with society.”

It’s testimonies like these — 47 in all are included with his petition — that form the last remaining basis for Hunt’s hope of release.

“I do hope that attention is drawn to the fight of people who have life without the possibility of parole,” Hunt said of the website his family has created to share information about his campaign for release,

Hunt explained that like himself, many of his fellow inmates who have been incarcerated since their youth have made profound changes by the time they reach middle age. “So I do hope that society as a whole becomes acquainted with this fact and they make room for the fact that the the work they have done is redemptive, and possibility invite them back to that role in society.”


Levin hunters: This 1996 Los Angeles Times story summarizes the reasonable doubts around Ron Levin’s disappearance.


Dead or Alive?
Billionaire Boys Club founder, convicted of murder, contends victim is still living. Prosecutors doubt witnesses’ accounts.

July 12, 1996
Alan Abrahamson

Ron Levin is dead. Or maybe he’s not.

Joe Hunt helped kill him and then buried the body in the Angeles National Forest.

Or maybe he didn’t and, like Elvis, Levin keeps turning up: at a funeral, driving a car through Brentwood, even relaxing in a taverna on a trendy Greek island.

Levin’s body has never been found.

And therein lies the riddle that has dominated a reprise of the Billionaire Boys Club saga–the drama that riveted Los Angeles in the 1980s and played out again over recent months at the Criminal Courts Building.

Is Levin really dead? Or has Levin, a skilled con artist, staged his own disappearance and pulled the ultimate con?

Hunt, the charismatic leader of the club and himself a man who’s been described as a con of some renown, was convicted nine years ago of murder. Since March, he and his lawyers have been back in court, arguing that he deserves a new trial, mostly on grounds that Levin is alive and well.

Read the rest at

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."