OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal judge on Friday re-sentenced “Tiger King” Joe Exotic to 21 years in prison, reducing his sentence by just a year, despite pleas for leniency from a former zookeeper as he begins treatment for cancer.
“Please don’t make me die in jail while waiting for a chance at freedom,” he told the 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 rights activist Carole Baskin. Both were featured in the Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
In his orange prison overalls, Maldonado-Passage still sported his signature mullet hairdo, but the bleached blond faded to grey.
Baskin and her husband also attended the hearing, and she said she feared that Maldonado-Passage might threaten her.
“He still has a strong dislike for me,” she said.
Friday’s trial comes after a federal appeals court ruled last year that the prison sentence he is serving on a murder-for-hire charge should be reduced.
Supporters filled the courtroom, some wearing animal masks and “Free Joe Exotic” shirts. His lawyers have said they are appealing both the retrial and the motion for a new trial.
In January 2020, a former zookeeper was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of trying to hire two different people 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 had the same goal of killing Baskin, who runs the orphanage for big cats in New York. Florida and criticized Maldonado-Passage’s treatment of animals.
Prosecutors said Maldonado-Passage offered $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent for Baskin’s murder during a taped meeting in December 2017. In the recording, he told the agent, “Just like following her to the mall parking lot, just close it and drive away.” Lawyers for Maldonado-Passage said their client, who once ran a zoo in Wynnwood, Oklahoma, about 65 miles south of Oklahoma City, was not serious.
Maldonado-Passage, who maintains his innocence, was also found guilty of killing five tigers, selling cubs and falsifying wildlife records.