POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The ‘Tiger King’ will still spend more than two decades in prison following a resentencing on Friday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On Friday morning, Maldonado-Passage was in the Pottawatomie County Detention Center to await his resentencing.
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.
In November, Maldonado-Passage was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
He delayed radiation treatment so he could receive an earlier resentencing hearing.