'Tiger King' Star Joe Exotic's Sentence Vacated, but He Remains Behind Bars and Will Be Resentenced

In 2019, the Tiger King star was convicted on two counts of murder-for-hire

Joe Exotic The Tiger King GW Exotic Animal Park
Joe Exotic. Photo: Steve Sisney/The Oklahoman/Imagn/USA Today Network/Sipa

A judge for Oklahoma's 10th District Court has ordered Tiger King's Joe Exotic to be resentenced after his 2019 conviction in a murder-for-hire plot.

The former Oklahoma zookeeper, whose legal name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was found guilty in a murder-for-hire plot to kill rival animal-rights activist Carole Baskin and was sentenced in 2020 to serve 22 years in prison for that and other crimes, which included killing tigers to make room for more big cats at his exotic animal park.

According to authorities, starting in July 2016, Maldonado-Passage repeatedly tried to hire people — one of whom was an undercover FBI agent — to murder Baskin, who owns a tiger refuge in Florida and won a multimillion-dollar judgment against Maldonado-Passage's G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Wynnewood, Okla.

Maldonado-Passage eventually gave a man $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to South Carolina and on to Florida to kill Baskin, "with a promise to pay thousands more after the deed," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

On Wednesday, a judge affirmed Maldonado-Passage's conviction but decided to vacate his original sentence and order a resentencing, KOCO reports.

Tiger King
Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin. Netflix

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According to the appeal, Maldonado-Passage disputed his conviction arguing that the court had made an error by allowing Baskin "to attend the full trial proceeding despite her being listed as a government witness," KFOR and KOMO report.

The judge agreed with Maldonado-Passage's appeal, stating, "Although the district court apparently thought that the two murder-for-hire plots shared a common criminal objective, it mistakenly (although quite understandably) thought that grouping would not be proper unless they were also part of the same course of conduct. This error in interpreting the guidelines requires reversal," according the court documents.

The case is being sent back to the Oklahoma City judge, who has been ordered to group the two counts together for the resentencing.

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