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Resentencing set for ‘Joe Exotic’ of ‘Tiger King’ in murder-for-hire plot

A federal appeals court found that an error led to a sentencing range higher than it should have been, but it upheld the convictions.
Image: Joe Exotic in "Tiger King."
"Joe Exotic" in "Tiger King."Courtesy Netflix

A federal judge set a Jan. 28 resentencing date Monday for “Tiger King” star Joseph Maldonado-Passage after an appeals court found that the court applied a prison range that was too high, records show.

The appeals court upheld the convictions of Maldonado-Passage, the zookeeper known as Joe Exotic, who was sentenced to 22 years in prison in an attempted murder-for-hire plot.

But the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that the advisory sentencing range should have been calculated at 17½ years to 21 years, 10 months, not the longer range that was used.

Maldonado-Passage was featured in the Netflix series “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”

Also on Monday, the Justice Department announced a consent decree that will forever prevent another central figure of the show, Jeff Lowe, or his wife from exhibiting animals.

Maldonado-Passage was convicted of twice hiring people to kill Carole Baskin, an activist who had criticized and sued his business, and of other crimes involving animals.

When the sentencing range was being calculated, the two murder-for-hire counts should have been grouped together because they shared the same goal, the murder of Baskin, the appeals panel ruled.

Not doing so raised the guidelines’ range to a maximum of 27¼ years, it said.

Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys did not immediately reply to a request for comment Monday night.

Maldonado-Passage has maintained his innocence, and in 2020 he asked for a pardon from then-President Donald Trump, which was not granted. In November, Maldonado-Passage announced that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

In the civil case, the Lowes took over the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, which Maldonado-Passage once ran.

Animals were moved to Tiger King Park in Thackerville. Last year a judge ordered animals to be seized, citing poor care, and the Lowes agreed to give up all interests in the animals, the government said.

The consent decree, as well as a summary judgment, were entered Dec. 23, the Justice Department said.