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‘Tiger King’ star Joe Exotic may serve less time

A federal appeals court ruled that ‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic should get a shorter prison sentence for his role in a murder-for-hire plot

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Joe Exotic, a big game breeder, from “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”

“Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” is a viral Netflix documentary detailing the life and times of Joe Exotic, a big game breeder.


“Tiger King” Joe Exotic may get a shorter prison sentence for his role in a murder-for-hire plot, which was the focus of a popular Netflix documentary in 2020, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

When was Joe Exotic sentenced?

Joe Exotic — whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage — was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison in January 2020 when he was convicted for hiring two men to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin, according to The Associated Press.

  • But a three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit in Denver said this week that the trial court wrongly treated the convictions as two events instead of one.

The panel said the two convictions should have been treated as one conviction because they were a part of the same murder-for-hire plot.

  • Per Fox News, Circuit Judge Gregory Phillips wrote in his opinion: “We hold that the district court acted within its discretion by allowing Baskin to attend the full trial proceedings despite her being listed as a government witness, but that it 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.”

What will be the new sentence?

The Associated Press reports the panel said the sentencing should range from 17.5 years to under 22 years — rather than the 22 to 27 years of the original sentence.

  • “The court ordered the trial court to re-sentence Maldonado-Passage,” The Associated Press reports.

Will Joe Exotic be released?

That’s unlikely. Randy Zelin, head of the criminal justice department at New York-based law firm Wilk Auslander told Yahoo Entertainment this case is different than the Bill Cosby case — where his sentencing was overturned because he had agreed to an immunity deal — and Exotic will remain behind bars.

  • “Cosby’s conviction was erased,” Zelin told Yahoo Entertainment. “Here, Joe Exotic’s conviction stands. It’s just that there was an error in the sentencing process.”