‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic resentenced to 21 years in prison

Posted at 7:29 AM, January 28, 2022 and last updated 5:31 PM, January 31, 2022

By JILL BLEED and SEAN MURPHY Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal judge resentenced “Tiger King” Joe Exotic to 21 years in prison on Friday, reducing his punishment by just a year despite pleas from the former zookeeper for leniency as he begins treatment for cancer.

“Please don’t make me die in prison waiting for a chance to be free,” he told a federal judge who resentenced him on a murder-for-hire charge.

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

Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, Maldonado-Passage still had his trademark mullet hairstyle, but the bleach-blonde was fading to gray.

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.

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

Friday’s court proceedings came about after a federal appeals court ruled last year that the prison term he’s serving on a murder-for-hire conviction should be shortened.

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.

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 Baskin. 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, who runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida and had criticized Maldonado-Passage’s treatment of animals.

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 (105 kilometers) 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.

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Bleed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas.

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