Exotic, born Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is the former owner of an Oklahoma zoo documented in the Netflix original hit series “Tiger King,” which hit tens of millions of viewers last year.
Maldonado-Passage is two years into a 22-year prison sentence stemming from a failed murder-for-hire plot against his rival, big cat rescue sanctuary owner, Carole Baskin.
Circuit Judge Gregory Phillips reaffirmed Maldonado-Passage’s 2018 federal indictment on 21 counts including wildlife crimes and two murder-for-hire plots but said that because Baskin attended trial proceedings that did not group Maldonado-Passage’s two murder-for-hire convictions involving the same victim together – as required by federal guidelines – Maldonado-Passage’s current conviction must be vacated.
An Oklahoma district court vacated ‘Tiger King’ docuseries star Joe Exotic’s prison sentence Wednesday and ordered his resentencing, court filings obtained by Fox News show. (Netflix US/AFP via Getty Images)
“We hold that the district court acted within its discretion by allowing Baskin to attend the full trial proceedings despite her being listed as a government witness, but that it erred by not grouping the two murder-for-hire convictions at sentencing. Accordingly, we affirm the conviction but vacate the sentence and remand for resentencing,” Phillips wrote in his opinion.
Maldonado-Passage allegedly paid one of his park employees, Alan Glover, $3,000 to kill Baskin by “cut[ting] her head off,” though Glover has testified that he did not intend to follow through with the plan, according to court documents.
The Netflix star was upset that Baskin, his outspoken critic, had won a million-dollar civil judgment against him.
After his initial attempt failed, prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage offered $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent to kill Baskin during a meeting that was recorded and played for the jury. In the recording, he told the agent, “Just like follow her into a mall parking lot and just cap her and drive off.”
Baskin and her husband Howard suggested in April that they would help Maldonado-Passage get out of prison if he agreed to publicly back a law seeking to end private ownership of big cats, which was passed by the House of Representatives in early December.
“Tiger King” extensively covered Maldonado-Passage’s repeated claims that Baskin allegedly killed her husband Don Lewis, who disappeared in 1997, and possibly fed him to her tigers. Baskin has never been charged with any crime and released a statement at the time refuting the accusations made in the series.
Fox News’ Frank Miles and The Associated Press contributed to this report.