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Appeals Judges Skeptical Of Joe Exotic's New Resentencing Appeal

Joe Exotic's defense attorney had a heated debate with appeal judges over the reality star's recent resentencing for his conviction of murder-for-hire charges.

By Cydney Contreras
Where Is 'Tiger King' Joe Exotic Now?

Joe Exotic's attorney engaged in a heated (and often confusing) back-and-forth with appeal court judges over his recent resentencing.

Attorney Molly Parmer argued to judges on U.S Court of Appeals 10th Circuit on Thursday that the constitutional rights  of Exotic — whose given name is Joseph Maldando — were violated when he was resentenced to 21 years in prison on multiple charges in January.

"The district court imposed both an unconstitutional and an unreasonable sentence,” Parmer argued, according to Law and Crime. “And, despite the government’s contentions to the contrary, it is solely Mr. Maldonado’s sentence that forms the basis of this appeal.”

"It is his sentence that is multiplicitous, thereby violating the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” the defense attorney explained. “And it is his sentence that is both procedurally and substantively unreasonable.”

Joseph Maldonado

However, judge Carolyn B. McHugh cut Parmer off, claiming that the defense attorney was incorrectly disputing the charges and not the sentencing. 

After more back and forth between Parmer and McHugh, circuit judge Bobby R. Baldock intervened, clarifying that the re-sentencing took place because the trial judge incorrectly calculated the original sentence based on federal guidelines.

"This court sent it back for grouping – that’s the issue that we had in that case – it comes back for the district court to group,” Baldock said. “Did the district court group it? Group the sentencing?”

“Yes,” Parmer said. “The district court grouped counts one and counts two.”

“So, what’s left? She keeps asking you on the mandate; the district court did what we said to do. Anything beyond that is what? A violation of the mandate of the court,” Baldock said.

RELATED: The Most Jaw-Dropping Moments From The 'Joe Vs. Carole' Take On The Tiger King Saga

Parmer continued to argue that the trial court violated the defendant's constitutional rights because, she claimed, he was convicted based on "a single plot to kill” Carole Baskin, even though he was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill her two different times.

During re-sentencing, the trial judge declined Parmer's request to merge to two convictions on that basis, instead of consolidating just the sentences, which would've reduced the defendant's sentence even more than the resentencing the appeals court had ordered.

Judge McHugh reiterated the trial judge's decision, reminding Parmer that Exotic's current appeal is based on the initial sentencing, not the charges.

"Here, what was prosecuted, and what the jury found, were two separate plots. One with one hitman and one with another hitman that did not overlap in time," McHugh stated.

Steven Creager, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, intervened to defend the trial court's decision. "The scope of the mandate, which was limited to re-sentencing, did not allow for Mr. Maldonado-Passage to challenge the multiplicity of the counts," he stated.

Parmer ultimately requested a remand to the lower court based on the rule of lenity, which, according to the Cornell University School of Law Legal Information Institute, dictates that, if a law is unclear, the court should apply it in the way that is most favorable to the defendant. 

Exotic's other attorney John M. Phillips spoke to Law and Crime about the case, saying that it was "awesome" to witness Parmer's argument. "Today was an attempt to explain to the appellate court that the ‘murder for hire’ was over-sentenced,” Phillips continued. “Today was not the day to challenge the trial or merits.”

Parmer also celebrated her arguments on Instagram.

"Joe’s current legal team first appeared in court on his behalf this January," she wrote. "Since then we’ve handled a resentencing hearing, filed a direct appeal of his sentence, filed a motion for new trial and, today, handled oral argument on the sentencing appeal. And we’ve only just begun."

"Joe is wrongfully convicted and his sentence is unconstitutional," she added

In addition to appealing the re-sentencing, Exotic's team is also requesting a re-trial in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Oklahoma. 

Exotic is currently recovering in a North Carolina correctional facility after receiving treatment for prostate cancer.