Petitions Signed

This FAQ is adapted from actual questions we’ve received. And we’re happy to answer more.

I’ve never heard of this guy. I wish there was more information about his case, but I’m not signing the petition without details. 

Thanks for your willingness to learn more! We’ve put all of the basics on this page.

Isn’t he the Joe Hunt from Billionaire Boys Club movies?

Yes, he is. But Hollywood often gets the facts wrong.

I saw on TV that this guy is a murderer! How can you try to free someone who is a murderer?

There are many reasons why we believe Joe Hunt is in fact, not a murderer, but here’s one big one: there was never a body found in the Ron Levin murder case.

Then there’s the fact that his judge was known to side with the prosecution, regardless of evidence, the fact that Joe had his Sixth Amendment rights violated by an incompetent trial attorney and the fact that when Joe faced a second trial with a great attorney — himself — he convinced a majority of jurors that he was innocent.

Plenty of murderers get life sentences, and Joe was the mastermind. Why should he get special treatment?

Yes, it’s true: plenty of murderers get life sentences. For example, the notorious psychopathic cult leader Charles Manson got a life sentence for his role as mastermind of nine separate murders. But Manson got life WITH the possibility of parole, and he was given multiple opportunities to go before a parole board and plead his case for rehabilitation and release.

As strange as it may sound, at this point, we would be happy if the justice system gave Joe Hunt the same treatment as it gave Charles Manson:  a parole hearing.

How about the whole story? Not just the pieces you choose to tell us… we want facts!!!

Great! The more people learn the facts, the happier we are! Too many people only know the tabloid TV version of this story.

There’s a lot of information out there, but we’re very clear about the fact that we believe Joe is not a murderer, and we created this site to share our reasons why.

We’ve got many, many legal documents on our site, but if you want to see other reputable sources of information, an interesting place to start might be this Associated Press article about Ron Levin sightings, or this Los Angeles Times article about the biased judge in the case.

What was the evidence that was strong enough to put him behind bars without a body?!

Mostly circumstantial evidence, plus the testimony of the Billionaire Boys Club’s co-leader, Dean Karny, who promised to cooperate with prosecutors to save his own skin. In the Ron Levin murder case, no body and no forensic evidence were found, and the judge discounted evidence from witnesses who said they saw Levin alive after his disappearance. 

Though there have been other murder convictions in California without a body, there has never been one where there was a complete absence of any physical evidence of violence, together with no eyewitnesses to violence, significant evidence that the alleged victim both intended to flee and took concrete steps in preparation to flee, and compelling eyewitness evidence that the victim was alive after the date of his alleged “murder.” Indeed, if one undertakes a review of every published ‘no body’ murder conviction in history, one ends up realizing that no one else has ever been convicted of murder where the basic allegation of death was so dramatically refuted.

You’re leaving out the fact that there were two murders he was accused of. What about Hedayat Eslaminia?

Yes, Joe was accused of the murder of Hedayat Eslaminia, but not convicted. In that trial, Joe acted as his own defense attorney and convinced a majority of jurors he did not commit the crime. These jurors also concluded, based on the testimony of multiple witnesses who passed lie detector tests, that Ron Levin was alive. The trial ended in a hung jury, and prosecutors declined to retry the case.

Hedayat’s son Reza Eslaminia, and Arben Dosti, were convicted of the murder, primarily based on testimony from Dean Karny. Both were released on appeal using evidence from Joe’s second trial.

For more details about Joe’s involvement with Eslaminia’s death, please see this detailed explanation.

Wasn’t Joe guilty of fraud or something?

Yes. Joe readily admits to financial misdeeds. The 23-year-old Joe Hunt found himself in financial trouble from a fraud perpetrated on him by the master con artist Ron Levin, who bilked him out of a half million of his investors’ dollars, leaving Joe holding the bag. Joe 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 Joe 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.

For more about this, see Scam or Scapegoat? Rethinking Joe Hunt’s Financial Legacy.

Do you have proof that Ron Levin was a con artist?

Have a look at this Secret Service document (at left), his criminal history, his FBI rap sheet, and this news article.

Why is a petition needed if his trial was botched?

We need a petition BECAUSE the trial was botched. This Los Angeles Times article about the biased judge in the case explained:

“Lawyers Arthur Barens and Richard Chier have accumulated a host of complaints they say constitute judicial misconduct and the basis for a motion for mistrial they plan to file this week. It will charge, Chier said, 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.”

Do you have proof that the dead guy, Ron Levin, was seen after the murder date?

If anyone had a good reason to “disappear,” Ron Levin did. He was out on bail at the time of his disappearance, due for a court appearance on fraud charges, and facing multiple civil lawsuits and an FBI investigation. Levin left a swath of angry fraud victims in his path, to whom he owed millions. One even held a gun to Levin’s head, but Levin talked his way free. 

Multiple people, several of whom knew Levin personally, reported seeing him after the date of his supposed murder. All testified under oath and passed lie detector tests. Have a look at the Associated Press story at right. Also, there’s a Los Angeles Times story about the sightings.

Unfortunately, the judge, known as a “prosecutor’s judge,” ignored their testimony.

Why doesn’t Joe get a retrial?

Joe has been trying since 1986 to get a new trial. See the Legal Odyssey section of the website for full details.

Detective Zoeller, from the original case, wrote in a memo that they would be unlikely to win in a retrial, due to the five eyewitnesses who have seen Levin alive.

Wasn’t one of the sightings witnesses, Robbie Robinson, debunked?

Robby Robinson failed an inadmissible police polygraph and later passed another polygraph with flying colors. He was called as a witness in the 1992 trial in San Mateo and the jurors found him highly credible. Thus, the notion that Robinson’s testimony was debunked, is a canard. A strong inference to be drawn is that Beverly Hills Police Department’s polygrapher was playing “team ball” when he reported that Robinson had failed the first polygraph.

Robinson came forward as a witness in the first trial on April 17, 1987, and the prosecutor disclosed to the defense the existence of the witness on April 21st. Joe was convicted on April 22nd. Joe’s defense attorney declined to interview Robinson or do an independent investigation of the sighting. Subsequently, it was discovered that Joe’s defense attorney had a conflict of interest that made him disinclined to investigate or present sightings witnesses.

So, in sum, what happened with Robbie Robinson was just another aspect of the miscarriage of justice that was the 1987 trial. For more details on this subject, please see this extended explanation.

Lots of people thought they saw Elvis after he died. It doesn’t mean they did if they can’t produce him. I need hard proof that Ron Levin is alive.

So do we. So much so, that on September 15, 2018, we posted$100,000 reward to get it.

If Ron Levin has been sighted, why don’t they bring him in to show he is still alive?

Great idea! Can you help? We’ll give you $100,000!

Why should he get parole? I’m glad he changed his life around in prison, but that doesn’t bring back the person he killed.

That is true — if you believe he committed a murder. We believe Ron Levin is a fugitive, not a corpse.

See this 83-second video about why Joe deserves a chance at parole.

But whether Joe is guilty or innocent is not the question parole boards consider. Parole boards consider rehabilitation and ask whether or not a person poses a threat of future harm to society if released from prison (and released from taxpayers paying all the costs of his food and housing).

Joe’s commutation application includes 537 letters, including one from a prison guard who said, “I would place him solidly in the top 1% as far as suitability for reintegration with society.” And Asha Praver, director of Ananda Church, said, “Joe has gone farther toward remaking his life in an image of righteousness than most men could ever claim, in or out of prison.”

Every inmate says they are innocent and wrongly convicted, don’t they?

No, they don’t. Over 95% of prisoners plead guilty (NPR article). Furthermore, almost everyone who goes in front of a parole board on a lifer case admits guilt and discusses their efforts to rehabilitate themselves. So, nearly all prisoners ADMIT guilt. Also, studies show that 4-6% of prisoners are innocent (see studies one, two, three, and four).

What is Ananda Church

Ananda Worldwide is a global spiritual movement, based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi (and one of the people on the album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) Here’s a link to a video with more info

He did defraud people with the Ponzi scheme though. 

Yes. “I was in many ways a jerk in my 20s,” Joe said in an interview. He regrets everything about those bad decisions — lies and financial scheming. But if Joe had been imprisoned according to sentencing guidelines for fraud, he would likely have been released more than two decades ago.

Joe Hunt has white privilege. But over-sentencing, life without parole, and criminal justice reform mostly affect minorities.

This is absolutely true: African Americans are incarcerated at more than twice the rate of whites in America. Problems with the criminal justice system disproportionately impact minority communities, by an extremely wide margin. But any person who knows the anguish of having an innocent yet incarcerated family member knows this: we cannot be silent. 

We strongly agree with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rightslife without possibility of parole sentences are a violation of human rights.

We believe life without the possibility of parole, without the possibility of redemption, is a grave injustice and a waste of taxpayer money. 

Why don’t you get the Innocence Project to defend him?

Unfortunately, the Innocence Project only handles DNA cases. Without a body or murder weapon, there is no chance of DNA testing.

Why don’t you get President Biden to help?

Unfortunately, President Biden can’t help because it is not a federal case.

Okay, I signed the petition. 

Thank you! Would you please also share this link on social media?

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."