'Tiger King' Star Joe Exotic to Be Resentenced in Murder-for-Hire Case

Joseph Maldonado-Passage’s 22-year sentence may be reduced, but his convictions won’t change


Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic” from Netflix’s “Tiger King,” has won an appeal of his prison sentence. Maldonado-Passage, who is currently serving a 22-year sentence for attempting to have his rival Carole Baskin killed, will be resentenced. His convictions will not change, however.

Basically, Maldonado-Passage was found guilty of twice attempting to hire (two different) people to murder Baskin. His 22-year sentence considered those attempts as separately punishable offenses. Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys argued the two attempts should have been considered together, as the goal, intended victim and basic time frame was the same.

The first time, Maldonado-Passage paid one of his workers to kill Baskin. The second time, Maldonado-Passage attempted to hire an undercover FBI agent to do the deed.

In a Wednesday opinion, the United States Court of Appeals 10th Circuit agreed with Maldonado-Passage’s lawyers.

Judge Phillips said that the district court “erred by not grouping the two murder-for-hire convictions at sentencing.”

“Accordingly, we affirm the conviction but vacate the sentence and remand for resentencing,” Phillips wrote. Judge Hartz concurred with those aspects of the opinion.

Maldonado-Passage was also found guilty of a whole slew of wildlife crimes. Those carry lighter penalties.

Had the court considered the two murder-for-hire attempts as one, Maldonado-Passage would have been sentenced within a window of 210 months to 262 months. Separating out those two weeks-apart attempts, guidelines called for a sentence between 262 months and 327 months.

Maldonado-Passage got 264 months, so at minimum, his sentence should be reduced by two months. Best case scenario, Maldonado-Passage’s sentence could be reconsidered in a manner that shaves four-and-a-half years off his federal-prison stay.

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