Besides the two murders with which he is charged, Billionaire Boys Club leader Joe Hunt plotted to kill several other people to throw police off his trail, key prosecution witness Dean Karny testified Thursday.
"Joe had a lot of plans . . . related to discrediting (any story frightened BBC members might tell authorities), even to go so far as pinning Ron Levin's murder on them," Karny, who was Hunt's top lieutenant, explained in his second full day on the witness stand in Santa Monica Superior Court.
"We even discussed a plan to kill some of them," thereby both shifting blame for Levin's disappearance and eliminating possible witnesses, he said under questioning by Deputy Dist. Atty. Fred Wapner.
"Plans had been laid to create a fake trail so brilliantly conceived, that if a few of us stuck to our story, we would be able to create a reasonable doubt (in a jury's mind)," Karny said.
Hunt is on trial in the June, 1984, murder of Levin, a Beverly Hills businessman, and has been charged with a second murder in Northern California that took place later that summer. Karny has admitted his participation and has been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony. A law school graduate, he said state authorities have also promised to try to help him gain admittance to the California Bar.
Karny said one scenario called for making it appear that BBC member Dave May (of the May Co. department store family) had killed Levin. If Hunt came under suspicion, members were to say that May had borrowed a gray BMW (the car in which Levin's body was allegedly transported to a remote area of the Angeles National Forest) on the night he disappeared and had returned it with the trunk damaged, the inside reeking of vomit and the missing remote control device from Levin's television in the back.
An earlier witness testified that Hunt also suggested killing both May and his twin brother, Tom.
Another idea, Karny said, was to murder Billionaire Boys Club member Jeff Raymond's girlfriend and to make it look like Raymond had killed her in a sexual frenzy. Hunt's girlfriend, Brooke Roberts, was to lend support to that notion by saying that Raymond had also attacked her, the witness said.
Members of the business and social fraternity, BBC Consolidated Inc. of North America, who dubbed themselves the Billionaire Boys Club, testified earlier that they had been told in a dramatic meeting at Hunt's Westwood condominium that he and his bodyguard had "knocked off" Levin several weeks earlier. The chosen members were thought to be "able to handle" such a heavy secret, but several grew increasingly uncomfortable and contacted police separately.
Karny said he intended to stand by Hunt, even after Hunt's arrest by Beverly Hills police in the fall of 1984. He said Hunt telephoned him from the city jail to remind him that his "recollections" about the night of June 6 were going to be "very significant."
"He thought that perhaps we went to a movie that night," Karny said.
But Karny said he had moved back into his parents' home "to distance myself from Joe."
"I was starting to get pretty scared about what had happened . . . I didn't want to be any more involved," he said.
The son of a Los Angeles real estate developer, Karny, 26, said he began feeling nervous, lost weight, vomited frequently and stayed in bed for days. Eventually, he hired an attorney and contacted police.
Defense attorney Arthur Barens opened his cross-examination Thursday afternoon by suggesting that Karny's motivation in testifying against Hunt was to shift the blame for the murders and to avoid going to jail himself, and that he had no pangs of conscience until he obtained a copy of a Beverly Hills police report that indicated he was in deep trouble.
"It was not really that," Karny said, his voice cracking. "It was something in the report I read that brought home the reality of what I had done. I had participated in killing a man in San Mateo. And there was a picture of him in that report. And when I saw it, I remembered what his body looked like."
He was referring to the murder of wealthy Iranian Hedayat Eslaminia of Belmont, father of BBC member Reza Eslaminia.
Hunt; his bodyguard, Jim Pittman, who is also charged in the Levin case but will be tried separately; Reza Eslaminia, and Ben Dosti, son of a Los Angeles Times food writer, were charged with that slaying after Karny led authorities to the the elder Eslaminia's body in the Soledad Canyon area of the Angeles National Forest, where Levin's body was also allegedly dumped. Levin's body has not been found.
Jurors had not been told about the second slaying, which is a separate case, but Judge Laurence Rittenband warned defense attorneys that if they question Karny about his having been granted immunity from prosecution in both murders, which they did, he will allow Wapner to bring out details of the Eslaminia case, including the the fact that Hunt is a defendant.