A federal judge resentenced ‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic to 21 years in prison today, rejecting pleas from the former zookeeper to free him from prison as he told a federal judge ‘please don’t make me die in prison waiting for a chance to be free’.
The Netflix documentary star, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was convicted in a murder-for-hire case involving animal welfare activist Carole Baskin and has had only one year knocked off his sentence.
Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, his hair styled in a graying bleach-blonde trademark mullet, Maldonado-Passage was resentenced after an appeals court ruled last year that the prison term he’s serving on a murder-for-hire conviction should be shortened.
An appeals court judge vacated the Tiger King Joseph Maldonado-Passage, AKA Joe Exotic’s, 22-year sentence on a murder for hire conviction Wednesday, and he will need to be resentenced at a later date
Prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage tried to hire two people – including an undercover FBI agent – to kill Baskin, who’d criticized his treatment of animals.
But Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys said he wasn’t being serious.
Baskin and her husband also attended the proceedings, and she said she was fearful that Maldonado-Passage could threaten her.
‘He continues to harbor intense feelings of ill will toward me,’ she said.
Supporters packed the courtroom, some wearing animal-print masks and shirts that read ‘Free Joe Exotic’.
His attorneys said they would appeal both the resentencing and petition for a new trial.
Although Maldonado-Passage’s supporters sought his release from prison, it was believed to be unlikely because federal guidelines suggest a sentence of 17 1/2 years to 22 years in prison.
Maldonado-Passage attended today’s sentencing in Oklahoma City after a judge approved his transfer from a federal medical center in Butner, North Carolina.
Last month, attorneys for the former Oklahoma zookeeper said he was delaying prostate cancer treatment until after his resentencing.
The former zookeeper was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in prison after he was convicted of trying to hire two different men to kill animal welfare activist Carole Baskin, who is also a key figure in Netflix’s hit ‘Tiger King’ documentary.
A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Maldonado-Passage that the court should have treated them as one conviction at sentencing because they both involved the same goal of killing Baskin.
Baskin runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida and had criticized Maldonado-Passage’s treatment of animals.
Both were featured in Netflix’s ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.’ The show was a breakout hit as people were forced to stay home in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prosecutors said Maldonado-Passage offered $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent to kill Baskin during a recorded December 2017 meeting. In the recording, he told the agent, ‘Just like follow her into a mall parking lot and just cap her and drive off.’
Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys have said their client – who once operated a zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, about 65 miles south of Oklahoma City – wasn’t being serious.
Maldonado-Passage, who maintains his innocence, also was convicted of killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records.
His attorneys are asking for a lesser sentence than what the guidelines call for, alleging ‘imperfect entrapment, sentencing manipulation, and outrageous government conduct.’
Return: Tiger King 2 debuted on Netflix November 17 – with the hotly anticipated sequel chronicling Joe Exotic’s fight for freedom after being convicted in the murder-for-hire plot of rival Carole Baskin. Although supporters of Joe Exotic are seeking his release from prison, it’s unlikely because federal guidelines suggest a sentence of 17 1/2 years to 22 years in prison
‘From decisions made in the initial stages of the investigation to charging decisions to overzealous sentencing recommendations, one thing remains clear: this case was about doing whatever it took to put Mr. Maldonado-Passage behind bars for as long as possible,’ his attorneys wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Federal prosecutors said in court records that they would defer recommending a new sentence for Maldonado-Passage because of the allegations he raised.
‘In the unlikely event that any of these claims withstand scrutiny and ultimately are determined to be credible, those developments could impact the United States’ ultimate sentencing recommendation’ because the prosecutors are obligated to investigate them, U.S. Attorney Robert Troester wrote.
In December, Joe Exotic said he is desperate to prove that he is innocent of animal cruelty, in an exclusive interview with DailyMailTV.
It was first time fans have heard from Exotic since the release of season two of Netflix’s Tiger King, one of the streaming platform’s biggest shows.
In a recorded prison phone call shared with DailyMailTV, Exotic claimed he was misrepresented as needlessly killing tigers in his Oklahoma zoo, which he feels was a key part of his conviction last year.
Exotic defended his decision to shoot five of his G.W. Zoo big cats point blank in the skull as they were ‘old and in pain.’
But he claimed millions of fans worldwide branded him an animal abuser following the Netflix show broadcast and that prosecutors went into detail about the tiger killing process to make the jury ‘hate’ him.
The former zookeeper was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in prison after he was convicted of trying to hire two different men to kill animal welfare activist Carole Baskin, who is also a key figure in ‘Tiger King’
The 58-year-old, pictured in 2013, told DailyMailTV he was misrepresented as needlessly killing tigers at his Oklahoma zoo, which he feels was a key part of his 2019 conviction
Tiger King 2 debuted on Netflix in November – with the hotly anticipated sequel chronicling Joe Exotic’s fight for freedom after being convicted in the murder-for-hire plot of rival Baskin.
2020 Netflix smash hit Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, told the story of zoo owner Joe as he spiraled out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters in the true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding.
In 2019, Joe, 58, was convicted on 17 federal charges of animal abuse and two counts of attempted murder for hire in his plot to kill nemesis and Big Cat Rescue owner, Carole Baskin, 60 – and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
The explosive five-part second season sees the former G.W. Zoo owner fighting for release via a presidential pardon and would-be hitman Allen Glover claiming that his target was not in-fact Carole, but Joe himself.
Co-director Rebecca Chaiklin, who returns alongside Eric Goode for the new series, even voices her belief that there has ‘potentially been a miscarriage of justice’ in Joe’s murder-for-hire conviction.
The series also explores the much-debated fate of Big Cat Rescue owner Carole’s previous husband Don Lewis, who mysteriously vanished without a trace in 1997 and was declared dead in 2002 – with claims arising he could still be alive in Costa Rica.
Baskin (pictured in the Tiger King documentary) runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida and had criticized Maldonado-Passage’s treatment of animals
In Tiger King, Carole was blamed for Don’s disappearance and accused of ‘feeding him to the tigers’ by her rival Joe -claims she has fiercely denied.
Joe was sent to prison after paying hitman Allen Glover $25,000 to decapitate Carole – but Glover double crossed him and went to the police.
Now, Glover says the plot was to decapitate Joe using barbed wire, admitting ‘I was going to kill Joe’ – and that he was working with Joe’s rival and the man who bought G.W. Zoo, Jeff Lowe.
Joe said: ‘They were going to kill me because Jeff was on my life insurance. They actually even set a trap to decapitate me.
‘They strung a piece of barbed wire across from tree to tree. They were hoping I’d be riding a four-wheeler fast enough that I’d hit that wire.’
Tough times: Exotic is serving a 22 year prison sentence in Fort Worth, Texas a
Glover reveals the plot in a sworn affidavit on camera, saying: ‘We came up with a plan to decapitate Joe’s head to kill him to clear him away from the property so Jeff could take it over, animals and everything. This don’t make me look good at all.’
Tiger King 2 also claims that Glover and Lowe were co-conspirators in getting Exotic convicted on the murder-for-hire plot.
The documentary states that Jeff declined to comment on the allegations.
Lowe took over the park after Exotic was sent to prison, but it closed permanently to the public last August after its federal animal exhibition license was suspended.
Baskin then won control of the zoo in 2020 when a judge ruled she would be allowed to take over the property. This summer she sold it.
Joe said: ‘Everybody from the zoo is out there making money from Joe Exotic.
‘I’m paying the price for every one of them people.’