Attorneys for imprisoned big cat trader and Netflix’s Tiger King star Joseph Maldoado-Passage, better known as “Joe Exotic,” recently filed a series of documents and motions in a bid for a new trial.
Earlier this month, Exotic’s legal team filed a 67-page motion for a new trial at the district court level. Late Tuesday, an 82-page legal brief was filed seeking redress from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
Voluminous exhibits, well over 100, have also been filed in both federal court dockets. Exotic’s attorney John Phillips, in a statement, said those exhibits contain “evidence of collusion and fraud.”
In 2019, Exotic was convicted of multiple federal crimes including nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act, eight counts of falsifying wildlife records, and two counts for attempting to hire a hitman to murder his arch-rival, Carole Baskin.
He was ultimately sentenced to 22 years in federal prison.
In July 2021, an appeals court determined the trial judge incorrectly calculated the defendant’s sentence. Earlier this year, the trial judge recalculated and reduced Exotic’s sentence by exactly one year.
In the April 1, 2022 motion for a new trial, Exotic’s post-conviction counsel claims they recently “discovered information that was intentionally not turned over to trial defense counsel and intentional acts of grave misconduct by the prosecuting and investigating agencies” that landed the Tiger King star behind bars.
“The newly discovered evidence consists of photographs, videos, text messages and recorded calls among cooperating individuals that so strongly undermines confidence in Maldonado’s verdict, that justice demands his conviction be vacated,” the district court motion argues.
The initial filing alleges that the new evidence shows at least three government witnesses engaged in a conspiracy to commit perjury in order to secure the conviction. The filing also said the government itself engaged in numerous Brady violations–that is, failed to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense.
“This new evidence is of such a serious nature that it justifies the Court’s granting of a new trial,” the filing says. “The jury was not given the opportunity to hear important testimony that bore on important issues in the case. The real ‘controversy’ was not fully tried and therefore, a new trial is required. The integrity of the justice system should afford a jury the opportunity to hear and evaluate the evidence.”
The appellate brief filed on Tuesday afternoon offers a decidedly less controversial legal theory: that the trial court, once again, improperly computed Exotic’s time behind bars by running two of his sentences consecutively instead of concurrently due to the nature of the crimes.
“The district court’s sentence of consecutive terms on Counts 1 and 2 is unreasonable,” the latest filing argues, in reference to Exotic’s conviction on the murder-for-hire charges, saying the assessed sentence is unconstitutional violation of the defendants Due Process rights and that Congress likely did not intend “such a harsh result.”
“The two briefs (one challenging the case at the trial level and the other at the appellate level) stand as evidence that the wrongdoing at trial is still being upheld and not properly investigated,” Phillips told Law&Crime in response to a question about the latest legal effort.
“The 150-plus exhibits are catastrophic to the government’s case, showing new evidence, perjury, conspiracy to convict and gross ineffective assistance of trial counsel,” the attorney continued. “Yet, instead of a proper investigation, the system continues to put its head in the sand. These briefs show why this case must be retried.”
Exotic himself issued a combative statement about his newest fight:
Thank you to my attorneys for the year of hard work. My attorneys John Phillips, Amy Hanna, and Molly Parmer have dug in the trenches of hell to get the evidence they have to get me home. It’s now up to the judge to approve a new trial or dismiss the whole thing, which would be the right thing to do. The right thing would be for the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney in OKC to hold the Asst. U.S. Attorney in OKC and Agent Bryant responsible for conspiracy to commit perjury, knowing their witnesses were lying.
Only in America can the government kidnap you, lie under oath, and put you in prison when they know better. But I have faith that I will go home. God put me on a path to see and know what was wrong and what was missing in my life. I know what’s wrong and I will be the voice to change this for so many people.
[image via screenngrab/Netflix]
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