Hunt's Lawyer Reinstated for Penalty Phase

A Santa Monica Superior Court judge agreed Friday to reinstate a defense lawyer for convicted killer and Billionaire Boys Club leader Joe Hunt, just two days after kicking the attorney off the case.

The chief attorney for Hunt, Arthur Barens, had told Judge Laurence J. Rittenband that he could not proceed with the trial's penalty phase if co-counsel Richard C. Chier was not also permitted to represent Hunt. The penalty phase is scheduled to begin May 11.

The 27-year-old Hunt faces a possible death sentence for the 1984 shotgun slaying of Beverly Hills con man Ron Levin.

Rittenband did not explain why he had ordered Chier--who earlier had been appointed by another judge--off the case moments after the jury gave its verdict. But he said Friday he had changed his mind after meeting privately with lawyers for both sides.

"I made an impassioned plea to the court to reinstate Mr. Chier, and the court agreed to do so," Barens said, adding that the lawyers are barred from further comment.

Both Chier and Barens are being paid with county funds because Hunt is legally indigent. Hunt is being held without bail at Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail.

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