Recent Jobs For The Law Office of Francisco Hernandez

Customer Photo Solutions Provided
Joseph Maldonado-Passage Tiger King Joe Exotic
Fort Worth, TX
February 18, 2021

Federal Prisoners DO NOT have access to PACER

 

 

The law 

         Federal of Criminal Procedure 8(a) provides as follows: “(a) Joinder of Offenses. The indictment or information may charge a defendant in separate counts with 2 or more offenses if the offenses charged—whether felonies or misdemeanors or both—are of the same or similar character, or are based on the same act or transaction, or are connected with or constitute parts of a common scheme or plan.” 

         Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14(a) provides as follows: “(a) Relief. If the joinder of offenses or defendants in an indictment, an information, or a consolidation for trial appears to prejudice a defendant or the government, the court may order separate trials of counts, sever the defendants’ trials, or provide any other relief that justice requires.”

         The decision whether to grant or deny severance is in the sound discretion of the district court and will not be disturbed on appeal unless there is an affirmative showing of abuse of discretion. United States v. Hollis, 971 F.2d 1441, 1456 (10th Cir. 1992). A trial court may grant a severance if it appears that the defendant or Government is prejudiced by joinder. United States v. Herring, 582 F.2d 535 (10th Cir. 1978). In order to obtain a severance, a defendant must show clear prejudice resulting from joinder at trial. United States v. Bridwell, 583 F.2d 1135 (10th Cir. 1978). 

The Motion and Order 

         In the trial court, defendant asked the trial court to sever Counts 1 & 2 from the remaining counts, Counts 3–21. He sought severance because these counts were improperly joined, ROA.30, and because the joinder would cause him substantial prejudice. ROA.33. With respect to improper joinder, defendant complained that the “the murder for hire counts were improperly joined under Rule 8 because they [we]re not part of the same character, not the same act or transaction,

nor [we]re they parts of a common scheme or plan.” ROA.31 (citing United States v. Bailey, 952 F.2d 363, 364–65 (10th Cir. 1991). Counts 1 & 2 were murder for hire charges under 18 U.S.C. § 1958(a) while Counts 3–21 alleged wildlife violations under the Endangered Species and Lacey Acts. With respect to substantial prejudice, defendant argued that substantial prejudice could come from several areas: that his alleged killing five tigers at the exotic at his animal park would unfairly prejudice him with the murder-for-hire counts, ROA.33, that evidence of these alleged killings would be improper propensity evidence, ROA.34, and that the the jury might confuse and cumulate the evidence because the murder-for-hire evidence is wholly separate and different from the wildlife violations leading to convictions that would not otherwise have occurred. ROA.35. 

         The government filed a response, ROA.54, and a supplemental response. ROA.90. 

         The district court entered an order denying the motion to sever. Regarding the initial joinder question, the district court noted that the government did not contend that joinder was proper either because the offenses were of the same or similar character or because they were from the same act or transaction, ROA.115; therefore, the court would only consider whether the acts or transactions are connected or part of a common scheme or plan. ROA.115. The district court found “that the allegations made against Defendant are adequately alleged as parts of or connected to a common scheme or plan.” ROA.116. “The Government alleges that both the murder-for-hire offenses and the ESA/Lacey Act offenses resulted from the same contentious and litigious relationship between Defendant and C.B.” ROA.116. “The Court therefore determines that the murder-for-hire counts and the ESA/Lacey Act counts asserted by the Government and against the Defendant were properly joined under Rule 8(a).” ROA.117. The district court then concluded that the joinder would not prejudice defendant. ROA.118. The district court concluded that curative instructions would prevent any propensity convictions. ROA.118. The district court also concluded the significant overlap of testimony on the two groups of counts justified joinder because any prejudice to the defendant was outweighed by the expense and inconvenience of multiple trials. ROA.119. 

These counts were improperly joined

         These different types of offenses are not the kind of offenses that are typically joined in an indictment. For example, in United States v. Barrett, 496 F.3d 1079, 1097 (10th Cir. 2007), this Court affirmed the joinder of charges stemming from a single incident: the defendant’s shooting at officers serving a warrant on his property and killing one of the officers. In United States v. Thomas, 849 F.3d 906, 912 (10th Cir. 2017), this Court affirmed the joinder of multiple robberies in the same indictment. Though one was earlier-in-time, all were at the same intersection and conducted in the same manner. Id. In United States v. Hutchinson, 573 F.3d 1011, 1027 (10th Cir. 2009), this Court affirmed the joinder of drug charges occurring at a motel and then at other locations because “his drug business trotted along much as it had before. He still supplied drugs for the operation. Mr. Hutchinson still served as the primary dealer. Other dealers remained largely the same. Mr. Thompson even bailed some of the Alpine Rose participants out of jail. Only the operation's central headquarters seems to have changed.”  On the other hand, this Court has affirmed a district court’s refusal to join unrelated offenses. In United States v. Deloera-Escalera, No. 14-5143, *4 (10th Cir. January 15, 2016) (unpublished), this Court affirmed the district court’s refusal to join an illegal reentry charge with drug charges. 

         Here, the murder-for-hire and wildlife offenses neither occurred at the same place or time nor in the same manner or way. The offenses were not even related much similar. Counts One and Two alleged murder-for-hire; the remaining counts were wildlife violations pertaining to the defendant’s possession of big cats. This situation is much more like Deloera-Escalera than BarrettThomas, or Hutchinson. Therefore, this Court should find that the district court erred in denying the motion to sever. 

         What’s more, the district court improperly expanded what constitutes a common scheme or plan. The district court concluded that these offenses were properly joined as part of a common scheme or plan—“the same contentious and litigious relationship between Defendant and C.B.” ROA.116. Hutchinson illustrates a common scheme or plan. There, the defendant was actively involved in drug distribution at a motel and continued those at another location after a drug dealer was murdered at the motel. Hutchinson, 573 F.3d at 1017–18, 1027. “Only the operation's central headquarters seems to have changed.” Id. at 1027. In the present case, the district court found not a common scheme or plan of criminal conduct but a “contentious and litigious relationship between Defendant and C.B.” ROA.117. A contentious and litigious relationship is not a crime. It may have been the root of some of the defendant’s—the murder-for-hire allegations—conduct, but it itself was not a common scheme or plan, and as noted above, the wildlife violations were wholly separate and unrelated. Simply put, crimes and a contentious and litigious relationship are facially different things. Therefore, the district court erred by finding that there was a common scheme or plan justifying joinder. 

Overlapping evidence in this case shows the prejudice

         Some of the evidence at trial illustrates the prejudice experienced by defendant. Investigators exhumed the skulls of the tigers and brought them into the courtroom. Jurors saw a photo from Facebook showing C.B.’s employees bashing rabbits in the head. The putative hitman wanted to kill C.B. by cutting her head off. Decapitation pervaded this trial. 

         Investigators were looking for the tigers that had allegedly been shot. “Q. (By Mr. Brown) And so explain just in detail what it is you-all are doing. A. We are trying -- after we found the carcass, we were trying to locate the skulls. The information we had were that the tigers were shot, so we were looking to find the skulls and remove the skulls.” Vol. 3, p. 104. All five tigers were found. “We -- we found five tigers lined up side by side, kind of like hot dogs in a pack. They were just kind of laid right next to each other.” Id. The carcasses had been in the ground about a year when they were found. “Q. Okay. And were they -- how was the decomposition? A. The skin was still intact. The heads were still intact. They had been in the ground, I guess, about a year or so, or less. I'm not sure. But it was still pretty stinky. It was really bad.” Id. Only the skulls were recovered. In a scene that could have come from a mafia movie, the skulls were removed with a reciprocating saw. “Q. Okay. And did you and your search team actually exhume all five tigers? A. We exhumed the skulls off of all five tigers. Q. And explain how you would separate the skulls from the actual tiger carcass. A. To separate the head off of the carcass with a reciprocating tool, and then also like a saw or a knife to separate the head from the vertebrae.” Id. Pictures of the exhumation site including the bodies in the ground with flags where the heads had been removed from were introduced. “A. In 1.8, this is the hole where the -- or the pit where the tigers' head -- the heads were removed. So the carcasses are still in the ground. The yellow flags represent where the heads were removed from the carcasses.” Vol. 3. p. 107. The skulls were then mailed to a forensics lab. “A. They were mailed to a National Fish & Wildlife forensics lab in Ashland, Oregon.” Vol. 3 p. 108. The carcasses “were left in the pit.” Id. Forensic examination of the skulls revealed that four of the tigers had been killed by gunshots and one had been killed by blunt force trauma. Vol. 3, p. 137. At least one tiger was killed with a shotgun blast to the head. “Well, because shot pellets were found in the skull, indicative of a shotgun injury, this well-defined nature indicates that the barrel of the shotgun was held very close to the animal's head.” Vol. 3, p. 145. 

         Later in the trial, the putative hitman discussed ways to kill C.B. This hitman had a felony conviction, so he was reluctant to use a firearm to commit the murder. Vol. 3, p. 624–25. So he proposed killing her by cutting her head off. “Q. Now, you had said that you were uncomfortable with the idea of guns because you have this felony conviction. Did you propose any other ways of killing her to Mr. Passage? A. Yeah, I would cut her head off.” Vol. 3, p.626 (emphasis added).

         The jury also got to hear about killing rabbits. “It was a picture that I got off of Facebook of three of her employees bashing rabbits in the head and bloody, dead rabbits to feed to the tigers and laughing about it. So kind of give her a little taste of her own medicine -- and I sent that picture to every rabbit rescue in the country I could find, and she got a taste of her own medicine.” Vol. 3, p. 938. 

         In short, the jury got to see exhumed tiger heads, rabbits bashed in the skull, and a hitman wanting to decapitate C.B. rather than shoot her. Just this one aspect of the trial prejudiced the defendant as the wildlife violations were intermingled with the other charges in the most graphic and gruesome way possible.  

Conclusion

         The district court erred by refusing to sever the murder-for-hire counts from the wildlife violation counts. They were not part of a common scheme or plan. Indeed, they were not even similar much less related. The district court’s conclusion that they were incorrectly concluded that a contentious and litigious relationship is a common scheme or plan of crime. This improper joinder prejudiced the defendant by pervading the trial and the jury with decapitation—of tigers, rabbits, and a human. This was error. The defendant asks this Court to vacate his convictions and remand this case for new trials where the counts are properly severed. 

Thank you,

/s Joseph Maldonado-Passage

26154-017

Post Office Box 15330

3150 Horton Road

Fort Worth, Texas 76119

 

 

 

Joseph Maldonado-Passage Joe Exotic Tiger King
fort worth, TX
September 1, 2020

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OFFICE OF THE PARDON ATTORNEY In the Matter of: § § § § Addendum No. ___ § § Joseph Maldonado-Passage § Factual Basis in Support of Pardon Application “In America, the Sovereign has a far higher duty than its Subjects to seek Justice and ensure that its Citizens are treated fairly.” The Sovereign, in this case, has failed to carry its duty and allowed the Court to inflict a severe injustice upon Joseph Maldonado-Passage (“Joe”). Joseph Maldonado-Passage, commonly known by his sobriquet Joe Exotic, has had every aspect of his life thrust into the limelight by the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness. As the American public has gotten to know more about Joe’s personal life, business dealings, and the cast of characters that helped him run his exotic animal park in Oklahoma; Joe’s legal disputes have also entered into national discussion about criminal justice and prison reform. Joe is serving a twenty-two (22) year sentence after a federal jury convicted him of two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. In a statement released by the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing thanked the Court for their “thoughtful consideration” and for the “countless hours of detailed investigative work” which led the jury to return with a guilty verdict “after only a few hours of deliberation.” This quote illustrates precisely how the Sovereign failed in its duty. The Government’s focus was only about the “countless hours of detailed investigative work” as the justification for the injustice and harsh punishment imposed on Joe. “Countless hours of detailed investigative work” is the minimum acceptable standard for the Sovereign. What the Government’s quotes above really say is that: The Government did everything they had to do to win; but not to do justice. Most certainly, had Joe counted with matched resources, the outcome would have been different. At the time Joe was tried, he was “just some gay, gun totting, redneck in Oklahoma” who dared to assert his Constitutional right to a trial by Jury and Presumption of Innocence. Not a single witness was brought to testify on the merits of his defense. The Government ignored and excluded fact witnesses that were detrimental to their case. These witnesses were ready, willing and able to testify. Their statements are now included in this Application. Left alone at trial, Joe had to take the stand and testify in his own defense. By law, he was punished more severely for having asserted his Constitutional rights to a Trial by Jury and to take the stand in his own defense. The Federal jury that determined Joe’s fate were not presented all the relevant and necessary information for them to most accurately assess his innocence. Except as stated earlier, No witnesses were called on his behalf, particularly the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (hereinafter referred to as “G.W. Zoo” or “the animal park”) manager of fourteen years, John Reinke, Joe’s close friend Anne Patrick and associate Timothy Stark. Reinke and Patrick, were involved in the daily operations of the animal park and were present for many of the situations discussed in the trial. Their intimate knowledge of the G.W. Zoo and Joe’s personal and business life would have provided the jury with a fuller picture of the animal park’s operations and the supposed murder-for-hire plot. Tim Stark owned and operated his own zoo in Indiana. He was Joe’s friend and associate. We respectfully oppose the guilty verdict made in the case of United States of America vs. Joseph Maldonado-Passage, as well as the severity of Joe’s sentence. In the following sections, we hope to demonstrate that without the full understanding of the circumstances surrounding the murder-for-hire, the Endangered Species Act, and the Lacey Act counts, Joe’s guilt seems more tenable to the Court. Thus, the case must be re-presented with the full scope of information to more accurately assess Joe’s innocence. We trust your ability to see the truth in these statements and re-evaluate the previous verdict and restore justice to Joe, his family, and his community. This Factual Basis addresses, in order, the counts in the Superseding indictment against Joe. It is important to consider these two charging instruments together to answer the obvious question of why the original Indictment contained only the Murder-for-Hire counts. Then, on the precipice of the trial, the Government superseded the indictment to add nineteen (19) unrelated counts. Suffice it to say, counts 3-21 may be summarized by quoting a noble fan: “If you can’t get him for killing the woman, get him for killing the cats.” Counts 1-2 - Use of Interstate Commerce Facilities in the Commission Murder-for-Hire: The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma was Joe’s passion project; the animal park allowed him to work and live with the animals he loves by entertaining families in Oklahoma and across the nation with his zoological exhibits and exuberant shows. Through his increasing popularity on social media and his online live shows, Joe became well-known within the exotic animal community. Joe became popular through his “Joe Exotic” persona, where Joe entertained others through his vivacious and animated personality. He drew fans in with his over the top personality and presentation style. As occurs to many celebrities and public figures, Joe drew the ire of others who disliked his personality and disagreed with his opinions. One of his most vocal detractors was Carole Baskin. Baskin is the chief operating officer of Big Cat rescue, an animal sanctuary in Tampa, Florida. Joe and Baskin disagreed on the minutiae of the “proper care, exhibition, and breeding practices for big cats,” namely lions and tigers. As Baskin publicized her disagreement with Joe, he addressed her opposing opinions on his social media and online live show. In keeping with his theatrical and ostentatious persona, Joe made over-the-top threats towards Baskin. Baskin made a compelling antagonist within the microcosm of Joe’s “Joe Exotic” celebrity. Those who knew Joe personally took his statements as hyperbole, simply another aspect of his showmanship. In 2016, businessman Jeff Lowe fraudulently obtained ownership and control of the animal park from Joe and took over as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), he brought Allen Glover, who is originally from South Carolina, on as a new employee at G.W. Zoo. Although Lowe was in charge of overseeing all the coordination and administration of the animal park, he frequently made trips to Las Vegas for personal reasons and to pursue other business ventures. Lowe often relied on Allen Glover to report any and all goings on at the animal park. Because Lowe had hired Glover, Glover considered himself ultimately answerable to Lowe. The first count of murder-for-hire, Allen Glover [Individual 1] claimed that Joe inquired as to whether Glover would travel to Florida to murder Carole Baskin in exchange for an initial offer of US$3,000.00 and the promise of more payment after the plot’s success. Then Glover and Joe allegedly agreed that Glover would travel from Oklahoma to South Carolina and from South Carolina to Florida with the intent to murder Carole Baskin. Glover travelled from Oklahoma to South Carolina; however, no harm befell Baskin. According to John Reinke, the $3,000.00 that Joe offered Glover was not in exchange for the murder of Carole Baskin. Instead, the money was offered to Glover to leave the park due to his overbearing oversight and lack of work ethic, which frustrated Joe and others at the animal park. As Jeff Lowe was frequently in Las Vegas, Lowe relied on Allen Glover to report any and all goings on at the animal park. Reportedly Glover would often report minute behaviors to Lowe, causing Lowe to call Joe and berate him. The micromanagement that Glover’s reports to Lowe caused frustrated Joe, Reinke, and other employees as it interfered with their ability to perform their daily duties. Their frustration was compounded by the fact that Glover did not appear to contribute to the running of the animal park in any tangible way. Glover would often shirk his responsibilities to the animals by arriving late to work, if at all, not feeding or giving water to the animals, nor cleaning or repairing animal enclosures. After months of frustration, Jeff Lowe insisted that Joe offer Glover US$3,000.00 to leave G.W. Zoo and to return to his home in South Carolina. Joe felt he was fully within his rights to dismiss Glover as in a Performance Contract Joe and Lowe signed in February 2016 to opine whether a volunteer and/or employee of the animal park is “trained enough to work around the animals.” The Performance Contract generally stated that Joe would continue to conduct tours and performances in exchange for free housing and care for his animals. Additionally, Reinke asserts that if Joe was organizing a murder-for-hire plot, it would be illogical to seek out the services of Glover, a person Joe disliked and mistrusted for always reporting Joe’s activities to Lowe. As Glover considered himself an employee of Lowe, and not of Joe and G.W. Zoo at large, Joe did not have any authority to spur Glover towards his own bidding. According to Anne Patrick, she had bought Allen Glover’s plane ticket to South Carolina with her PayPal account. Joe was unaware of this fact until he was incarcerated. Anne Patrick stated that the US$3,000.00 cash Glover received was from the park, thus the finances between Joe and Glover were not secretly exchanged, particularly to those with access to the animal park’s finances. As CEO, Jeff Lowe is ultimately the person responsible for G.W. Zoo’s finances. Neither the letter nor Anne’s knowledge of the ticket purchase and cash to Glover were discussed during the trial. Since Joe gave Glover the US$3,000.00 to leave the park, it would not draw Joe’s suspicions if Glover travelled to South Carolina as that is where Glover is originally from. Nor would it draw his suspicions if Glover were to use the funds to enjoy himself in Florida. The second count of murder-for-hire was another instance where Joe supposedly sought out the services of others to murder Carole Baskin in Florida in exchange for a sum of money. It is postulated that Joe asked James Garrettson to find a person willing to murder Carole Baskin in exchange for a sum of money. Garrettson offered to introduce Joe to an individual willing to participate in a murder-for-hire plot, and Joe agreed to a meeting. Unbeknownst to Joe, the individual was an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent. In their meeting, the details of a possible murder-for-hire plot were discussed. Following the meeting there were a few phone calls between Joe and Garrettson regarding the use of the undercover FBI agent to murder Carole Baskin. (Please see Superseding Indictment). After their initial meeting, there was no contact between Joe and the undercover FBI agent. No exchange of money between Joe and the undercover FBI agent occurred, thus the agent was never hired, and no agreement was reached. No harm befell Carole Baskin. According to John Reinke, Jeff Lowe is very technologically savvy. In Lowe’s office he had a computer with multiple large monitors. Lowe would frequently use Google Maps to identify and locate the layout of Baskin’s property in Florida. Lowe was the one who presented the layout of Carole Baskin’s property to Joe and James Garretson. Garrettson initiated many of the aspects that would be included in the second count of murder-for-hire; he showed Joe the layout of Baskin’s property, Garrettson introduced Joe to the undercover FBI agent, and mediated the discussion of the murder-for-hire plans with the undercover FBI agent. If Joe had been more serious about the plan’s becoming a reality, then it is questionable why Jeff Lowe orchestrated all of the meetings and calls; Instead of Joe himself. According to Timothy Stark, Jeff Lowe knew and controlled everything surrounding the supposed murder-for-hire plot. Apparently, Lowe directed another animal park owner, James Garretson, to call Carole Baskin and alert her to the murder-for-hire plot. Therefore, Garretson who initiated most aspects of the murder-for-hire on Baskin, was also the same person who alerted her of the alleged plans. The reason offered for Joe’s motivation to create a murder-for-hire plot against Carole Baskin was due to their differing opinions on the care of big cats and the constant barrage of attempts by Baskin to collect on their lawsuit settlement and litigation. According to Reinke who knew Joe well, “he woulda never pursued it without somebody kickin’ the dog and pushing this along [sic].” Joe’s jokes, at most in bad taste, were merely jokes. It would have to be the influence of outside forces to have any action result from the jokes. As it currently appears, the ubiquity of Lowe’s influence in the plots indicate that he may have attempted to escalate the threats from hyperbolic jokes to an actual murder-for-hire plot. This information from Anne Patrick, John Reinke, and Timothy Stark provides necessary context to the events surrounding the two counts of murder-for-hire. Without the information from their testimonies, the Court could not accurately perceive the full ramifications of the counts of murder-for-hire. We believe that if the Court had had access to these testimonies, then Joe’s guilt for the murder-for-hire counts would not have appeared as clear-cut or obvious as it did without these testimonies. Moving on to Counts 3-21, we refresh the question of why the Government, on the precipice of the initial trial setting, superseded the indictment. The strategy well known within the criminal justice world, is if your case is weak, add as many counts to make an accused look guilty by “splashing” him with counts that make it appear that animal cruelty took place. This strategy is made evident by the USDA APHIS, Animal Care Doctor, Dr. Bonnie Boone testimony at the trial as to the frequency of criminal prosecution involving Wildlife Counts: Q. Okay. So, in your experience with the USDA, can you tell us how many matters that you have been involved in -- either just with the USDA or a combination of Fish & Wildlife/USDA – how many matters have you been involved with that have resulted in a criminal prosecution like this? A. This is the first one. I don't have any further questions. Counts 3-11 - Violation of the Endangered Species Act: Joe was found guilty of 8 counts of Violation of the Endangered Species Act. While Joe worked at G.W. Zoo, he had an exhibitor’s license issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which permitted him to display, perform for the public, or use for educational presentations his exotic animals. To be granted the exhibitor’s license, USDA determined Joe to be a trained professional who had the knowledge and means to properly maintain exotic animals Much of the Endangered Species Act emphasis was placed onto counts 3-7 due to their seemingly shocking content. Counts 3-7 of Violation of the Endangered Species Act, Joe was accused of having “knowingly and unlawfully took” certain endangered species of wildlife “by shooting and killing them. “The Superseding Indictment asserts that Joe shot and killed five tigers, Panthera tigris, to make available enclosures for big cats that were to be boarded at G.W. Zoo for a fee. According to Anne Patrick, the anticipated big cats that were to board at G.W. Zoo were three big cats, a lion and two tigers. She states that it would be unnecessary and excessive to euthanize five cats to make room for two cats, especially considering these cats boarded at G.W. Zoo every year. According to John Reinke, the five cats which were euthanized via gunshot were elderly and ill, having lost claws and teeth. During a USDA inspection visit, many of the tigers which were euthanized were identified as needing arthritis medication, which was nearly pointless as the medication would have only marginally improved the tigers’ quality of life. Thus Joe, in consultation with the veterinarian Dr. JoAnne Green, elected to euthanize the five big cats via gunshot. G.W. Zoo often elected to euthanize animals via gunshot as it was determined to be the most humane form of euthanasia. Specifically, gunshot is a more humane form of euthanasia than the process of tranquilizing animals then administering a fatal injection or other form of euthanasia. The animal park considered the process of tranquilizing animals before euthanasia as cruel because the animals suffered longer, and death was not instantaneous. Also, with tranquilizer the margin of error is much higher, and the animal may need to be tranquilized several times before being properly subdued. Also, tranquilizer before euthanasia is not necessarily more humane because the cats may get seizures or other symptoms from the tranquilizer. Thus, the animal park elects euthanasia via gunshot due to having instant results which do not prolong the animal’s misery. Joe and the G.W. Zoo’s perspective on the humanity of euthanasia via gunshot is consistent with the guidelines on euthanasia by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), who the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also consult in drafting their guidelines. One of the issues with the use of tranquilizer in the process of euthanasia is that animals can be aroused “to a conscious state … with sufficient stimulation, such that animals sedated or immobilized with these agents may still be consciously aware of, and connected to, their environment”, thus being aware of their suffering during the euthanasia process. This consciousness is significantly less likely with a physical euthanasia method, such as gunshot, “where loss of consciousness is instantaneous and unambiguous.” When physical euthanasia methods, such as gunshot, are properly conducted by skilled personnel “physical methods of euthanasia may result in less fear and anxiety and be more rapid, painless, humane, and practical than other forms of euthanasia.” Thus, Joe and other staff at the animal park’s use of gunshot to humanely euthanize big cats is in alignment with the recommendations of the AVMA, one of the most prestigious not-for-profit associations representing American veterinarians. In the Superseding Indictment, the gunshot administered to the five tigers is consistent with being “took”, which is a term that encompasses the actions to “harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” While shoot is included within the definition, it is within the broader context of the term that the animals are inhumanely treated and harmed. This intention is the complete opposite of that of euthanasia via gunshot which aims to induce death in a manner that is a matter of the animal’s welfare and to use humane techniques to induce the most rapid, painless, and distress-free death as possible. Thus, Joe administers euthanasia via gunshot as a means to humanely end the life of animals where their death is in the primary interest of their welfare. As Joe has an exhibitor’s license from the USDA, he is identified to be a trained professional who has the knowledge to properly maintain his exotic animals at every stage of their life, including at the end of their lives. The intention of the Endangered Species Act is to protect and recover imperiled species. As a person who had a USDA-issued exhibitor’s license Joe was qualified to care for exotic species. His activities, particularly in regard to Count 3-7, did not in any way imperil the big cats in question nor did it inhibit the propagation or survival of the species. The big cats were either elderly or so ill, that it was in the best interest of the animal to euthanize them. The use of the violation of the Endangered Species Act is not a castigation against Joe’s character as he did not intend to harm the animals or interfere with their regulation, instead he humanely cared for them as is his responsibility as a person with an exhibitor's license. According to Anne Patrick, in regard to count 8, the cubs in question were taken by a G.W. Zoo employee, Kelci Saffery, to Jeff Lowe in Las Vegas. Lowe often had animals from the animal park brought to him in Las Vegas. Saffery transporting tiger cubs from Oklahoma to Nevada at Lowe’s behest does not indicate that Joe violated the Endangered Species Act. Even if Lowe proffers the cubs for sale while in Las Vegas, if Joe was unaware of the offer and the cubs were not actually sold, it is not possible to have violated the Endangered Species Act by “knowingly” offering for sale the tiger cubs as there would have been no indication to Joe that the cubs were being proffered for sale. According to John Reinke, it was often that Jeff Lowe would request that animals from the parks would accompany him to Las Vegas, but as Reinke was the primary person who typically organized documentation for animal transport, Joe would have unlikely been involved in the logistics of the animals’ transport to Nevada. This information from John Reinke provides the necessary context to the events surrounding 6 of the counts for Violation of the Endangered Species Act. Joe fulfilled his duty as an individual exhibitor’s license from the USDA to care for his exotic animals, including caring for their well-being at the end of their lives by humanely euthanizing the animals. These counts could easily be misconstrued to make Joe appear ruthless; however, in the proper context Reinke provided, Joe’s actions were humane, compassionate, and prioritizing the welfare of the exotic animals. To re-understand this count within the context of humane euthanasia, is to re-understand Joe not as a person capable of the cruelty that is required to orchestrate a murder-for-hire plot. Due to Anne Patrick’s knowledge, it is revealed that Joe had no knowledge if the proffer of tiger cubs for sale in Nevada as Jeff Lowe often had animals from G.W. Zoo accompanying him to Las Vegas. Without her knowledge, it would not be clear that Joe was not the person primarily in charge of the animals, but in fact CEO Lowe who ordered the animals to be brought to him. We believe that if the Court had had access to these testimonies, then Joe’s guilt for the Violation of the Endangered Species Act would have appeared to the Courts or the federal jury as a clear flaunting of the rules. Instead Joe’s conduct was aligned with the spirit of the Endangered Species Act. Counts 12-21 - Violation of the Lacey Act: False Labeling of Wildlife: Joe has been accused of having “submitted false record, account, and label for, and a false identification” of several big cats and a lemur. It is alleged that Joe “designated and caused to be designated on delivery forms and Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (CVI)” that wildlife be seen as donated or transported for exhibition only, when they were actually being sold across state lines. The 10 counts are all for instances that occurred between November 2016 and June 2018. Please refer to the Superseding Indictment for more information. Counts 12-20 of Violation of the Lacey Act for the False Labeling of Wildlife are specifically in regard to 9 instances where lions and tiger’s delivery forms and CVI were incorrectly indicated that the big cats were sold to other zoological parks in other States when they were actually donated or momentarily housed in those zoos. In the February 2016 Performance Contract that Joe signed with Jeff Lowe that required Joe to conduct the exhibition of animals and the conduction of zoo tours. Joe was only responsible that the animals were transported “in proper carrying containers,” however he was not responsible for the paperwork that was associated with the transport of the animals. In fact, John Reinke was ultimately responsible for verifying all of the delivery forms and CVIs were being completed. If brought to the stand, Reinke likely would be able to explain further the standard practices regarding the delivery and CVI forms at G.W. Zoo. The CVI forms were completed by the local veterinarian Dr. JoAnne Green. Dr. Green’s secretary took responsibility for the forms mistakenly filling out the forms incorrectly, indicating that the animals in question were being sold when in fact they either were being donated or momentarily moved off of the animal park premises. Joe was aware that the animals were being moved and according to the Performance Contract his consent was necessary to move the animals but was not directly involved in the logistics of moving the animals, especially the creation of the delivery forms and CVIs. According to Anne Patrick, Joe began the process of moving off the park and finding a new place to live because of threats that Jeff Lowe made against his husband, Dillon Passage. Due to the threats against Dillon’s safety, Joe no longer felt that his animals, his husband nor himself were safe at the animal park. Joe began the process of moving his animals off of the animal park and sending the animals to other parks and zoos in the hopes that once he found a new place to live, he could retrieve his animals and start anew. Anne Patrick stated that Joe’s attempts to find a new home for his animals lead him to reach out to Howard Baskin in January 2018, Carole Baskin’s husband, to perhaps take over the animal park to assure the safety of his animals. When Joe first entered Grady County Jail, as would be evidenced by emails between him and Anne Patrick, he spent much of his correspondence attempting to coordinate housing for Dillon Passage and their animals. In October 2018, Joe was so concerned for the safety of his animals that were still at the park that he directed Anne Patrick to have the USDA APHIS send people to go check on the park and the state of the animals still under Lowe’s supervision. In a March 2019 email with Patrick, Joe makes mention of having sent some tigers to Colorado as a direct response to Jeff Lowe assaulting Dillon Passage. Count 21 of Violation of the Lacey Act for the False Labeling of Wildlife is specifically in regard to the transfer of a 10-week-old female lemur, Lemuridae. Joe is accused of “submitted a false record, account, and label for, and a false identification” of the lemur from himself to Ringling Animal Care in Ringling Oklahoma when in fact “the lemur had been sold and transported in interstate commerce.” First, one of the laws (16 U.S.C. § Section 3372(d)(2)) that Joe supposedly violated, directly relates to interstate commerce; as the lemur did not leave the State of Oklahoma it is not possible for Joe to have violated the law. The lemur in question had been given to James Garretson, who had worked at Ringling, who owned the lemur until it bit him, and he did not want the lemur anymore, so he gave it to a friend. Anne was aware of this, if she had been interviewed this information would be available to the court The first 9 counts of Violation of the Lacey Act for the False Labeling of Wildlife are related to a clerical error made by the secretary of Dr. Green. As John Reinke would be able to attest to, he is the primary individual who was supposed to verify the forms, thus any mistake would be his responsibility. And if the responsibility is not with John Reinke it is ultimately with Jeff Lowe as the CEO of G.W. Zoo. Therefore, it is excessive to accuse Joe of willfully designating the misinformation on the delivery forms and CVI forms when the mistakes were due to the inattention of others. The 10th count is related to a lemur who never left state lines, as Anne Patrick would be able to attest, Joe is not capable of violating a law that is specifically related to interstate commerce. We believe that if the Court and federal jury would have had access to these testimonies, then Joe’s guilt for the Violation of the Lacey Act for the False Labeling of Wildlife would not seem obvious as Joe clearly did not intend to sell the exotic animals across state lines, because he was temporarily relocating the animals as he was seeking new housing. Any mislabeling that indicates that the animals were to be sold can simply be attributed to a clerical error. Witnesses: As is clearly demonstrated above, without the testimonies of Anne Patrick, John Reinke, and Timothy Stark there is a lot of evidence and information that was missing from the Court and federal jury’s consideration, hindering their ability to accurately assess Joe’s innocence. Those who were permitted to testify, including Allen Glover, Erik Cowie, and James Garretson, were people who disliked Joe for their own personal reasons and thus had a motivation to not only testify against him, but to assure that the Court decided on a guilty verdict. Many of the narratives and events that they said as they testified and characterized as the truth could be directly disputed by the knowledge and evidence that Patrick, Reinke, and Stark could provide the courts. Patrick, Reinke, and Stark were never interviewed or allowed to testify despite their repeated efforts to provide their first-hand knowledge to Joe’s defense. Allen Glover was directly involved in the murder-for-hire plots, and he testified on his experience to the court. Without testimonies from others in regard to the plot, there was no other information received by the Courts and the federal jury to compare to his characterization of the events leading up to and surrounding the supposed plan. Anne Patrick and John Reinke attest that Glover did not like Joe and even referred to Joseph as an “asshole” while testifying, his testimony was clearly colored by his personal opinion of Joe. Timothy Stark was a friend of Jeff Lowe and Allen Glover. Stark states that once when he was spending time with Lowe and his wife, Lauren, that Lowe was laughing about having “set-up” Joe on the murder for hire plot using Glover’s help. Also, once when Stark and Glover were at a bar together, Glover told Stark that Lowe organized rehearsals for Glover to prepare what to say in response to questions pertaining to the murder-for-hire plot so as to distance his involvement in the plot and imply that the sole orchestration of the plot lay on Joe’s shoulders. Without Stark’s testimony, the relationship that Glover had with Joe could not accurately be depicted, nor could Glover’s reasoning to participate in the supposed plots. Erik Cowie, an employee of G.W. Zoo, also testified. Anne Patrick had been roommates with Cowie for two years and knew him well. Cowie had been friends with Joe and held him in high regard. Unfortunately, Cowie struggles with substance abuse, particularly with alcohol. His health and alcohol abuse became significantly worse after the death of Travis Maldonado, Joe’s previous husband. As Cowie dealt with his mental health issues related to his alcoholism, Joe became concerned for the animal’s well-being in Cowie’s presence. Cowie’s growing dislike towards Joe increased when some of the big cats Cowie was most emotionally attached to were moved away from G.W. Zoo. Joe had given Cowie an ultimatum; if Cowie wanted to accompany the cats, he had to stop his alcohol-abuse. Unfortunately, Cowie was unable to overcome this, and thus he did not accompany the tigers. Without Patrick’s testimony, the souring of Cowie's relationship with Joe and his understanding of the events at hand could not be adequately depicted. James Garretson testified that Jeff Lowe offered him $100,000.00 to help set up Joe. Anne Patrick was aware that Jeff Lowe had offered Garretson $100,000.00 to “set Joseph up”, specifically in regard to calling Carole Baskin to make her aware of a murder-for-hire plot against her. Without Patrick’s testimony, Garretson’s relevance and involvement in relation to the events discussed would not be apparent to the Court or the Federal jury. Another person who was never asked to testify but clearly was involved in many of the events related to counts against Joe is Jeff Lowe. Lowe’s direct involvement in many of the charges, and particularly his relationship with Allen Glover and James Garretson would make his testimony useful to create a fuller depiction of the events for the Court and the federal jury. In the end, Jeff Lowe, the mastermind and implementer of the so called “murder for hire” plot, avoids prosecution with an immunity agreement with the Government. But Joe gets convicted with the same evidence that inculpates the Jeff Lowe as the principal actor. As demonstrated above, the testimonies of Jeff Lowe, Anne Patrick, John Reinke, and Timothy Stark would have provided crucial information regarding nearly every single count that was brought against Joe. Without the crucial context and evidence that their testimonies would have provided the Court and the federal jury, the innocence of Joe could not be scrupulously and accurately determined. Conclusion: We respectfully contest the verdicts and the severity of the punishment made in the case of United States of America vs. Joseph Maldonado-Passage. In the above sections, we have demonstrated that with a fuller understanding of the circumstances surrounding the murder-for-hire, the Endangered Species Act, and the Lacey Act counts, Joe’s innocence will seem more tenable to the Court. Thus, the information must be presented so that Joe’s innocence can be more accurately assessed. In particular we have demonstrated that the testimonies of others, especially those of Anne Patrick, John Reinke, and Timothy Stark, will provide the necessary context and information to better evaluate the various counts. We trust your ability to see the truth in these statements and re-evaluate the previous verdict and restore justice to Joe, his family, and his community. Respectfully Submitted,

B. Aguilar
Fort worth, TX
March 27, 2020

Rocio Martinez was able to successfully stop Customer’s removal from the country and keep Legal Permanent Resident status in the United States. He got to go home to his three young children and his lovely wife. He got to keep his residency and will be able to apply for citizenship in a few years. On paper, he had a loser case. Our firm found a way to help him using a creative legal strategy. He gets to celebrate his daughters 6th birthday today after being detained for nearly two months. At the end, the Immigration Judge complimented Rocio and made clear it is the only Prosecutorial Discretion case he has seen in his time as a Judge.

Berenicer
fort worth, TX
March 23, 2020

The results came back on March 19. They were not in our favor. We contacted the Court late that day and were able to get her brought over from the jail the very next day. We were able to plead her to a sentence equal to the time she already had in jail. We were fortunate to have gotten that sentence. As a result, immigration actually picked her up Saturday morning, according to jail records. We gave her very specific instructions on how to request an ICE bond without her family having to spend more money on lawyer fees. Immigration did not charge her a dime for her bond! Our advice, once again, worked. She was out of immigration by 1:30 Monday morning and will be coming back to our office for us to work with her on her immigration status adjustment. The family was quite grateful. We met with them on an almost daily basis from the date they hired us until the day she pled. They stayed in touch with us by email as well. The family was extremely helpful in providing documentation that we are certain helped in getting her out of ICE. All in all, this was a team effort for a wonderful result. For a U.S. citizen, this would not have been as troublesome. But we were able to help someone who in all likelihood will become a U.S. citizen one day stay in our great country.

Olivares
Fort Worth, TX
March 23, 2020

Rocio Martinez, our Immigration ACE, was able to successfully stop Customer’s removal from the country and also get Customer Legal Permanent Resident status in the United States.

EP
Fort Worth, TX
February 24, 2020

We represented EP in a deportation hearing where we were able to save his legal permanent legal status despite his criminal history.

Page: 1
Total: 6

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez