Joseph Maldonado-Passage , the man known as Joe Exotic, the Tiger King, which was a massive hit for Netflix in early 2020, will be heading back to court after a judge ordered his murder-for-hire sentences to be vacated.
According to court documents, the U.S. Tenth District Court in Oklahoma granted Exotic’s appeal on technicality.
Even though the convictions against Exotic remain, the sentence has been vacated.
The court basically said in its decision that Exotic “hired two different hitmen on two different occasions.”
But, the panel 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. 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.
It’s possible that Maldonado-Passage could receive an even lower sentence than the range cited in the ruling because the court has to consider other factors too, his appeals attorney, Brandon Sample, said.
Meanwhile, another attorney representing Maldonado-Passage, John M. Phillips, hinted at the possibility of seeking a new trial, saying in a statement he would be filing motions citing previously undisclosed and newly discovered evidence in the case as well as examples of government misconduct.
What this means is Exotic will go back to court for a new sentencing, he will remain in custody until the new sentencing is determined.
Prosecutors say Exotic gave a person 3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to Florida to carry out the murder of a big cat activist Carole Baskin and “allegedly agreed to pay thousands more after the deed,” said the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.
Officials offered evidence in the form of recordings of Exotic negotiating the hiring of an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a hitman. When talking about payment, Exotic reportedly said, “I’ll just sell a bunch of tigers.”
The intended target was Carole Baskin, owner of the Big Cat Rescue Ranch in Tampa, a big critic of Exotic.
The defense claimed their client was framed.
He was sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison for both murder-for-hire plot and several wildlife charges.