‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic’s sentence reduced

Mid-South

FILE – In this Aug. 28, 2013, file photo, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, answers a question during an interview at the zoo he runs in Wynnewood, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Correction: A previous version of this story contained a caption with incorrect information.

POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The “Tiger King” received fewer years behind bars Friday during a resentencing hearing, but he will still spend more than two decades in prison.

Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was convicted in a murder-for-hire case involving animal welfare activist Carole Baskin, who, along with Maldonado-Passage, was featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”

Maldonado-Passage’s original sentence of 264 months, or 22 years, was reduced to 252 months, or 21 years.

In 2018, Maldonado-Passage, former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of murder-for-hire.

Prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage gave someone $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to Florida to kill Baskin and “allegedly agreed to pay thousands more after the deed,” said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.

Joseph Maldonado-Passage (Santa Rosa County Jail via AP, File)

A grand jury also indicted Maldonado-Passage on an additional 19 counts of wildlife charges, including the violation of the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act.

Prosecutors say he shot and killed five tigers in October 2017 to make room in cages for other big cats and sold tiger cubs to raise money.

He was also accused of falsifying records relating to the tigers, lions and a baby lemur, all of which were purportedly being donated or transported for exhibition but were actually sold.

Officials offered evidence in the form of recordings of Maldonado-Passage negotiating the hiring of an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a hitman. When talking about how he planned to pay, Maldonado-Passage reportedly said, “I’ll just sell a bunch of tigers.”

Baskin, a chief critic of Maldonado-Passage, successfully sued Maldonado-Passage for trademark infringement in 2011 and was outspoken about the treatment of animals at his park.

ILE - In this July 20, 2017 file photo, Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa, Fla. Baskin was married to Jack “Don” Lewis, whose 1997 disappearance remains unsolved and is the subject of a new Netflix series “Tiger King.” (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)
In this July 20, 2017, file photo, Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa, Florida. (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

The defense claimed Maldonado-Passage was framed, saying he was all talk and had no intention of wanting Baskin dead.

The former Greater Wynnewood Animal Park owner was found guilty on all counts in 2019 and was sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison for all of the convictions. Officials say he was sentenced to nine years in prison for each of the murder-for-hire convictions and four years for the wildlife violations.

In July, a federal court found that the trial court wrongly treated Maldonado-Passage’s two convictions separately in calculating his prison term. Instead, they say the court should have treated them as one conviction at sentencing.

According to the ruling, the court should have calculated his advisory sentencing range to be between 17 1/2 years and just under 22 years in prison rather than between just under 22 years and 27 years in prison. The court ordered the trial court to re-sentence Maldonado-Passage.

In November, Maldonado-Passage was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He delayed radiation treatment so he could receive an earlier resentencing hearing.

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