After an appeals court determined last year that the prison term he’s serving on a murder-for-hire conviction should be lowered, a federal judge is due to decide on a new sentence for “Tiger King” Joe Exotic on Friday.
Although friends of Joe Exotic — whose actual name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage — are lobbying for his release, federal standards predict a sentence of 17 1/2 to 22 years in jail.
After a court allowed his relocation from a federal medical hospital in Butner, North Carolina, Maldonado Passage was anticipated to attend Friday’s sentence in Oklahoma City. Attorneys for the former Oklahoma zookeeper said last month that he would postpone prostate cancer treatment until after his resentencing.
After being convicted of attempting to pay two separate individuals to assassinate animal welfare campaigner Carole Baskin, the former zookeeper was sentenced to 22 years in jail in January 2020. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Maldonado-Passage that the court should have treated the two convictions as one at sentencing because they both had the same goal of killing Baskin, who runs a big cat rescue sanctuary in Florida and had criticized Maldonado-treatment Passage’s of animals.
“Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness” on Netflix included both of them. As individuals were compelled to stay at home during the early weeks of the coronavirus epidemic, the show became a smash hit.
During a recorded December 2017 encounter, Maldonado-Passage allegedly offered $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent to assassinate Baskin, according to prosecutors. “Just like follow her into a mall parking lot and just cap her and drive off,” he tells the agent on the video. Attorneys for Maldonado-Passage have claimed that their client, who formerly ran a zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City, wasn’t being serious.
Maldonado-Passage was also found guilty of murdering five tigers, selling tiger pups, and falsifying wildlife records. He maintains his innocence. His lawyers are requesting a sentence that is less severe than the guidelines allow for, citing “imperfect entrapment, sentencing manipulation, and unacceptable government conduct.”
“One thing remains clear: this case was about doing whatever it needed to keep Mr. Maldonado-Passage behind bars for as long as possible,” his lawyers stated in a sentencing brief.
Because of the charges brought by Maldonado-Passage, federal prosecutors stated in court papers that they would postpone proposing a fresh sentence for him.
U.S. Attorney Robert Troester noted that “in the rare event that any of these assertions withstand inspection and are ultimately proven to be genuine, such developments might alter the United States’ ultimate sentence decision” since prosecutors are required to examine them.