Sentencing Delayed For Billionaire Boys Club Figure
Jun. 25, 1987
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ The sentencing of Joe Hunt, the Billionaire Boys Club leader convicted of murder, was postponed Thursday after his lawyer complained he had not received Hunt's probation report in time to study it.
Superior Court Judge Laurence Rittenband, noting that California law requires delivery of probation reports nine days before sentencing, delayed the procedure to July 6.
Hunt's lawyer, Arthur Barens, refused to waive the time requirement that would have allowed the sentencing to proceed.
A jury has recommended Hunt spent the rest of his life in prison without possibility of parole for the murder of a con man, and Rittenband has little recourse but to impose that sentence. He cannot impose the death penalty, which jurors rejected.
Hunt, 27, was the charismatic leader of the financial and social club known as the Billionaire Boys Club. His followers were mainly buddies from the exclusive Harvard School prep academy, many from wealthy and socially prominent families, all dreaming of using their wits to bring in easy riches.
He was found guilty on April 22 of shooting Ronald Levin to death June 6, 1984, disfiguring his face with shotgun blasts, then burying him a remote section of Soledad Canyon. Levin's body was never found.
Outside court, Deputy District Attorney Fred Wapner said he suspected an ulterior motive in the delay: an effort by Hunt to escape trial along with co- defendants in another murder case in San Mateo County.
''A delay of nine more days makes it likely that his trial would have to be severed from the others,'' Wapner said. ''He doesn't want to go to trial with the other defendants.''
Barens said his only reason for his motion to delay the hearing was that he needed time to examine the probation report.
The northern California trial is to begin Aug. 24, with onetime club members Reza Eslaminia, Arben Dosti and Hunt charged in the July 1984 slaying of Eslaminia's father, Hedayat, a former official of the shah's regime in Iran.
They are accused of kidnapping Hedayat Eslaminia from his Belmont home and stuffing him into a steamer trunk for a drive south to a rented Beverly Hills house, where they allegedly planned to torture him into signing over millions of dollars to his son.
Prosecutors say the elder Eslaminia died en route, apparently suffocating in the trunk. His skeletal remains were found in Soledad Canyon, the same location where Levin's disfigured remains were allegedly buried.
Wapner noted that another Hunt associate, James Pittman, has a retrial in the Levin slaying, scheduled to begin in Santa Monica on June 29. His first trial ended in a hung jury. Pittman also is charged in the Eslaminia slaying.
Levin had convinced Hunt in late 1983 that he had opened a $5 million account for him at a Beverly Hills commodity exchange, and that Hunt could invest with the account and split the profits evenly with Levin.
Hunt, who was kicked off the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for fraud, claimed he was a brilliant commodities trader.
Hunt parlayed the account into $13 million. Levin later told Hunt the account was phony, and no money had been traded or sold.
Former club members testified Hunt was enraged and swore to get the money from Levin.