A federal judge resentenced “Tiger King” Joe Exotic to 21 years in prison on Friday, rejecting pleas from the former zookeeper to free him from prison.
“Please don’t make me die in prison waiting for a chance to be free,” he told a federal judge who resentenced him on a murder-for-hire charge.
Joe Exotic — whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage — was convicted in a murder-for-hire case involving animal welfare activist Carole Baskin. Both were featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”
Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, Maldonado-Passage still had his trademark mullet hairstyle, but the bleach-blonde was fading to gray.
Baskin and her husband also attended the proceedings, and she said she was fearful that Maldonado-Passage could threaten her.
“He continues to harbor intense feelings of ill will toward me,” she said.
Friday’s court proceedings came about after a federal appeals court ruled last year that the prison term he’s serving on a murder-for-hire conviction should be shortened.
Supporters packed the courtroom, some wearing animal-print masks and shirts that read “Free Joe Exotic.” His attorneys said they would appeal both the resentencing and petition for a new trial.
The former zookeeper was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in prison after he was convicted of trying to hire two different men 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 involved the same goal of killing Baskin, who runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida and had criticized Maldonado-Passage’s treatment of animals.
Prosecutors said Maldonado-Passage offered $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent to kill Baskin during a recorded December 2017 meeting. In the recording, he told the agent, “Just like follow her into a mall parking lot and just cap her and drive off.” Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys have said their client — who once operated a zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, about 65 miles south of Oklahoma City — wasn’t being serious.
Maldonado-Passage, who maintains his innocence, also was convicted of killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records.