DENVER, Colo. (KFOR) – The ‘Tiger King’ will be returning to a courtroom on Thursday to appeal his conviction.

In 2018, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as “Joe Exotic” and former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of murder-for-hire.

Prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage gave a person $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to Florida to carry out the murder of big cat activist Carole Baskin and “allegedly agreed to pay thousands more after the deed,” said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.

Joseph Maldonado-Passage

A grand jury also indicted Maldonado-Passage on an additional 19 counts of wildlife charges, including the violation of the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act.

Prosecutors say he shot and killed five tigers in October 2017 to make room in cages for other big cats, and sold tiger cubs to raise money.

He was also accused of falsifying records relating to the tigers, lions and a baby lemur which were purportedly being donated or transported for exhibition, but were actually sold.

Officials offered evidence in the form of recordings of Maldonado-Passage negotiating the hiring of an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a hitman. When talking about payment, Maldonado-Passage reportedly said, “I’ll just sell a bunch of tigers.”

The intended target of the hit was Carole Baskin, a chief critic of Maldonado-Passage. Baskin successfully sued Maldonado-Passage for trademark infringement in 2011, and was outspoken about the treatment of animals at the park.

ILE - In this July 20, 2017 file photo, Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa, Fla. Baskin was married to Jack “Don” Lewis, whose 1997 disappearance remains unsolved and is the subject of a new Netflix series “Tiger King.” (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)
FILE – In this July 20, 2017 file photo, Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa, Fla. Baskin was married to Jack “Don” Lewis, whose 1997 disappearance remains unsolved and is the subject of a new Netflix series “Tiger …

The defense claimed their client was framed. They say he was all talk and had no intention of wanting Baskin dead.

The former Greater Wynnewood Animal Park owner was found guilty on all counts in 2019.

He was ultimately sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison for all of the convictions. Officials say he was sentenced to nine years in prison for each of the murder-for-hire convictions, and four years for the wildlife violations.

In July, a federal court found that the trial court wrongly treated Maldonado- Passage’s two convictions separately in calculating his prison term. Instead, they say the court should have treated them as one conviction at sentencing.

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

During the resentencing, a federal court reduced Joe Exotic’s sentence, but say he will still spend two decades behind bars.

His original sentence of 264 months, or 22 years, was reduced to 252 months, or 21 years.

Following his resentencing, his attorneys filed an appeal, asking for a new trial.

Oral arguments are scheduled to begin Thursday in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver.

“I appreciate everybody’s support and just keep up the fight. Keep up passing around the petitions so we can get some signatures on the petition. But we gotta make this political because I’m never gonna get out of here any other way because it’s too corrupt. The whole system is too corrupt. Don’t believe all the b******* that you are seeing out there right now because it’s all crap,” Maldonado-Passage said in a statement.