A Federal Appeals court has ruled this week that Joe Passage-Maldonado, who goes by Joe Exotic and was featured in the hit Netflix docu-series, is entitled to be resentenced to a shorter sentence. He was sentenced last year for an attempted murder-for-hire plot and for the killing of several endangered tigers at his former zoo. He was sentenced to 22 years for al the charges, but the court ruled this week that his sentencing guidelines were improperly scored too high. The court found that the sentencing judge improperly treated his two convictions for attempted murder separately, as they evinced a common criminal purpose. When scored as one conviction, will substantially lower the minimum guideline sentence.
With the ruling, the guideline range minimum will go from 22 years down to 17 and a half years. There will be a new sentencing hearing, and Joe’s attorney will likely push for the court to go even lower than 17 years, especially in light of Mr. Passage-Maldonado’s health issues. Joe has indicated in statements that he does not expect to survive the sentence, as he is suffering prostate cancer. The court has the option to sentence him within the range indicated by the guidelines- last time he was sentenced at the bottom of the range, as he has no priors or other aggravators. One would anticipate the sentence would go down, as the range has shifted down, but the court can consider other factors, if new information is presented, which could convince the court to go below the guideline range. A new hearing will be set some weeks down the road.
Lois Riess, who has already pleaded guilty to murder charges in Florida and received a life sentence in exchange for avoiding the death penalty, has now pleaded guilty to the murder of her husband in Minnesota. Riess, dubbed “Losing Streak Lois” by law enforcement that pursued her on a multi-state manhunt after she committed her second murder on Fort Myers Beach, had come to Florida after this murder in Minnesota. She targeted, befriended, then betrayed and killed a woman she met on Fort Myers Beach to assume her identity, take her car, and then spent several days on the lamb. She was caught on video gambling in a casino, hence the nickname, before being spotted and turned in by an observant civilian in Texas. Riess was already going to spend the rest of her life in prison, thanks to her plea to the Lee County, Florida murder charges. This resolves her remaining murder, and she will likely serve out her sentence in Minnesota.
Three people have been arrested in the triple murder of three friends who were killed on a fishing trip in Frostproof. The alleged shooter, Tony “T.J.” Wiggins, allegedly accused the victims of stealing his truck and then shot all three of them. Wiggins has multiple prior felony convictions (though the
Tony Wiggins via DOC
200 quoted in the article is unclear- it likely includes duplicative arrests), and has been to prison multiple times at only 26 years of age. The other two co-defendants are charged with accessory and tampering. The report doesn’t seem to indicate that they were directly involved in the killings, and the state will likely try to use their charges to pressure them to flip on the accused shooter. The brutal nature suggests that this is a case the state may seek the death penalty, but that decision likely won’t be made for a few weeks. First degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.
Attorneys for Mark Sievers have filed a motion for new trial after his conviction and death sentence in the death of his wife, Theresa Sievers. Sievers’ attorneys have alleged several issues to be heard at the motion for new trial. The strongest claim is probably the discovery of new evidence. The motion alleges that a newly discovered letter from Sievers’ neighbor Mark Petrites proves that Petrites misled the jury about the extent of his friendship with Sievers, and that the letter helps explain why his testimony was inconsistent over the course of the case.
If the court fines that the motion is supported by evidence and that there was prejudice from the issues, the judge could grant Sievers a new trial. This doesn’t mean he would be released or acquitted, it would mean that the trial would start over again, but only if the judge is persuaded that the issues raised in the motion prejudiced Mr. Sievers and to entitle him to a new trial. The motion will be heard in court tomorrow.
Mark Sievers was sentenced to death today after being found guilty at trial of first degree murder for planning his wife’s killing. The jury found that Sievers had instigated the plan for his wife, Dr. Theresa Sievers’, murder by asking his friend Curtis Wayne Wright to carry it out. Wright traveled from Missouri with his friend Jimmy Rodgers, and the two bludgeoned Dr. Sievers in her home before travelling back to Missouri.
Curtis Wayne Wright pled guilty to murder, and agreed to testify against the others in exchange for a 25-year sentence. Rodgers was found guilty of second-degree murder in his own trial, and sentenced to life in prison. Mark Sievers was found guilty last month, and the jury recommended death during the sentencing phase. Today, the judge imposed a death sentence.
Sievers testified at the hearing today, still proclaiming his innocence, but asking for mercy. The judge indicated he would leave mercy to God, and that Sievers’ actions warranted the death penalty. As with all death penalty cases in Florida, it will be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.
Lois Riess, dubbed ‘Losing Streak Lois’ by the media and who was the subject of a multi-state manhunt that saw her gambling in casinos as she avoided justice in two states, entered a plea today in Lee County Circuit court. She had been facing the death penalty for the murder of Pamela Hutchinson on Fort Myers beach. Authorities believe she targeted Hutchinson for the resemblance between the two women, and then killed Hutchinson to assume her identity. Riess stole Hutchinson’s car and identity to finance her flight halfway across the country, before she was captured in South Padre Island, TX.
Riess was already a suspect for the murder of her husband some time before that in Minnesota. Riess is believed to have fled to Fort Myers where she committed the Hutchinson murder to further evade capture. That’s an aggravating factor that could have contributed to the State’s death penalty case. As it is, she accepted a plea to life in prison to avoid the risk of the death penalty. Florida has no parole, so life means life, and she will not have the possibility for release. Also, she will be extradited back to Minnesota to face charges for the murder of her husband, though that’s unlikely to go to trial as she’s already been given a life sentence. It is unclear if she will serve her time in Minnesota, or be transferred back to Florida to serve out her time, here.
This deal is a good resolution for the state of Florida, as the state will not have to incur the expense of a trial and the necessary appeals and post-conviction motions necessary for a death penalty case. Due to her age, it’s unlikely she would have ever ended up being executed (Kevin Foster still awaits execution, and his conviction was for charges that occurred in 1996). Perhaps the benefit or her is avoiding having to serve her time on Death Row, and getting her case done so she can serve her prison time and not sit in the local jail. She will likely have to Minnesota to deal with her charges up there before she sees a state prison.
Your right against self-incrimination is provided by the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You can’t be compelled to provide testimony against yourself… but time and time again, criminal suspects give statements that harm their own interests. The latest example is Wade Wilson, a Cape Coral man suspected in two murders during a spree a few weeks ago. Wilson was jailed on other charges while authorities continued their investigation.
Well, our Wade Wilson, not to be confused with the comic-book Deadpool’s alter-ego played by Ryan Reynolds, just couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Wilson started calling local reporters and giving statements that were broadcast on the news. Wilson gave chilling statements about his interactions with the women. While Wilson ultimately denied being responsible for killing the women, he made multiple incriminating statements, including admitting that he was the last known person to see the women alive. The state may have charged him anyway, but it certainly didn’t help, as he’s now been indicted for first degree murder in their deaths. Yes, his news interviews will be admissible evidence against him.
This goes from the most serious charges like Wilson’s, down to misdemeanors like DUI. While the State may be able to prove up a DUI based on the observations of officers, other witnesses, or a breath result… the case gets a lot easier if the Defendant admits drinking, or how much he was drinking before he got pulled over. The cops are certainly going to keep listening.
Jimmy Rodgers, one of three men charged with the murder of Dr. Teresa Sievers in her Bonita Springs home in 2015 is on trial in Fort Myers. Jury selection began last Monday, and this morning the attorneys gave their opening statements. The State argues that Rodgers traveled here with Curtis Wayne Wright, who had allegedly been hired by the third Defendant Mark Sievers, Teresa’s husband. There’s substantial evidence to show that Rodgers and Wright traveled to Southwest Florida together from Missouri, and that they were here when Sievers was beaten to death in her home.
Curtis Wayne Wright has already pled guilty to his involvement, and agreed to serve 25 years in prison in exchange for his testimony for the state. That’s obviously something that the Defense will attack as to his credibility. Further, he gave several differing statements, at least eight, according to the Defense in their opening statement. The challenge will be for the State to use Wright to prove not just that Rodgers was present, but that he participated in the crime. The State also plans to use the testimony of Rodgers’ then girlfriend, to whom Rodgers allegedly admitted to killing Dr. Sievers. However, Rodgers’ girlfriend has been paid by the state about $400 per month for the four years since the crime, so the Defense will attack her credibility as well.
Crime Scene tech Van Waus testifying
The Defense conceded in opening that Rodgers traveled to Fort Myers with Wright, but deny that he was involved in the conspiracy with Mark Sievers to commit the murder. The State’s only evidence that directly ties Rodgers to the murder itself is the testimony of Curtis Wright. Not only is there a strong attack on Wright’s credibility, but Wright admitted that he was the first to attack Sievers. He says only after he struck her a couple times did Rodgers jump in to actually kill her. Wright’s testimony will be must-see viewing. Rodgers faces the death penalty, as does Mark Sievers.
It’s been over four years since Dr. Theresa Sievers was brutally murdered in her Lee County home. Her husband Mark Sievers, Mark’s friend from Missouri Curtis Wayne Wright, and an apparent acquaintance of Wright’s who is also from Missouri, Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers were all arrested for the killing and charged with First Degree Murder. Curtis Wright later entered a plea to murder in exchange for 25 years in prison with an agreement to give substantial assistance in the other cases, which means he will need to testify for the state. Sievers and Wright are facing the death penalty.
Both defendants are seeking a continuance of the trial, but the judge is eager for prosecution to go forward. He has set four weeks aside to handle the case on the court calendar, and a few weeks ago the cases were severed, so they will not be tried together. That means only one can go, and Rodgers is the most likely to start this month. Since the jury must be death qualified, it will take several days to pick a jury, and maybe a couple weeks, especially in light of the media coverage the case has gained. But we won’t know until the cases go before the judge in the morning.