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<span>Justice</span> For Joe Exotic

Justice For Joe Exotic

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Joseph Maldonado, also known as Joe Exotic, has filed the first of several motions designed to reverse his 2019 conviction. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and vacated his sentence, so the first hearing addresses sentencing errors. This motion was originally filed under seal, but we agreed to unseal it in advance of the hearing.


Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, has filed the first of several motions designed to reverse his 2019 conviction. The first motion is entitled Defendant’s Motion for Disqualification and cites Sections 144 and 455(a) and (b) of Title 28 of the United States Code.  Each provides separate, although overlapping, bases for disqualification of the trial judge Scott Palk.

Several grounds are referenced within the Motion.  Judge Palk has simultaneously been the judge in four different cases involving Maldonado-Passage, ruling adversely and sanctioning him in each.  He has also sanctioned witnesses in other cases, which make them hesitant to believe justice will be fair in further proceedings. While not the sole basis for recusal, the Court has familiarity with many facts not entered into evidence in the criminal case based on his pre-existing personal knowledge of the same facts in dispute in the simultaneous civil cases.  Based on this alone, an appearance of impartiality cannot exist.

This culminated with Judge Palk’s comments at Mr. Maldonado-Passage’s sentencing hearing, which was recently vacated by Tenth Circuit District Court of Appeal. By nature of Judge Palk’s own statements at sentencing, he considers Mr. Maldonado-Passage dishonest and incapable of having animals.  He bases his bias not only on evidence presented at the criminal trial, but by the “clear and convincing evidence” he reviewed in the civil cases of which he simultaneously presided over.  He went on to further state at sentencing, “the issues which motivated you to solicit the murder of Carole Baskin remain.” And, “The sentence I impose will certainly advance the goals of punishing you for all of these offenses and will hopefully protect the public from any future offenses.” Imposing a sentence based on actions in an unrelated civil case reflects a mindset that requires disqualification.

Meanwhile the chief prosecutor was selected as a magistrate judge by approval of the federal district judges and now works with Judge Palk on cases while still speaking on behalf of partisan animal groups.  On August 26, 2021, Magistrate Maxfield-Green is speaking on “Tiger King on Trial: Prosecuting Joe Maldonado-Passage.” Her doing so while handling cases with Judge Palk certainly causes Mr. Maldonado-Passage concern. 

As noted in the Motion, Mr. Maldonado-Passage’s counsel is in possession of newly discovered evidence which not only shows government misconduct, but witness perjury.  Certain “facts” presented at the first trial were a preordained script.  When all of the facts come out, people will need to be held accountable. This cannot happen if a judge has so firmly decided a man’s guilt.

“The next few months will be significantly important for Joe,” said Mr. Maldonado-Passage’s lead attorney, John M. Phillips. “Not only will he receive a new sentencing, but we look forward to presenting his case to a judge who can maintain the public’s confidence in the judicial system by remaining impartial.”  Justice is coming for Joe.


Jacksonville, Fla. – Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” has retained John M. Phillips, Amy Hanna and the Law Offices of Phillips & Hunt to lead criminal and civil litigation matters related to a new trial.

Maldonado- Passage was a key subject of the 2020 television show, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. However, Mr. Maldonado-Passage has been in prison since before this series debuted and has not watched a single episode.

He takes exception with his portrayal in the show and has significant issues related to how the filming hindered his criminal trial. Further, since the trial, information has since come to light about witnesses colluding and conspiring against Maldonado-Passage.

“Justice is supposed to be blind, fair and level,” said attorney John M. Phillips from his primary office in Jacksonville, Florida, “Yet, we already have evidence that Joe’s trial was none of those things.” Phillips continued, “Our goal is to set the record straight and get a new trial for Mr. Maldonado-Passage. We are working through these issues now. This is serious and probably has been treated with less seriousness and sanctity than justice deserves.”

Those who have any information or evidence are invited to submit it to Phillips & Hunt or report any helpful information to our office at (800) LITIGATE.

There will be no press conference at this time. There is too much work to do.

Statement from Joe Maldonado- Passage:

Statement from Joe Maldonado- Passage:

3.1.21 4:16 PM

“I have had the honor of meeting with Attorney John Phillips here at the prison and discussed how to proceed with my case and “Justice for Joe Exotic.” The goal is to get to the truth, so I can return home and get back to helping the people of the world. I have hired him to be lead criminal and civil counsel on my case and he has assured me he will be assembling a “dream team” of top notch criminal defense attorneys and investigators to assure me the best defense possible.

And John Phillips can get me TRUE JUSTICE, which is long overdue.”

Criminal Trial Transcripts: