Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic” from Netflix’s “Tiger King,” has won an appeal of his prison sentence. Maldonado-Passage, who is serving a 22-year sentence for attempting to have his rival Carole Baskin killed, will be resentenced. His convictions will not change, however.
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.
The first time, Maldonado-Passage paid one of his workers $3,000 to go to Florida to kill Baskin in November 2017. According to the Justice Department, he promised to pay that man more money after she was dead. The second time, just a month later, Maldonado-Passage attempted to hire an undercover FBI agent to do the deed.
Maldonado-Passage has outright accused Baskin of killing her former husband and either feeding his remains to tigers or dumping the body in a septic tank on their property.
In a Wednesday ruling, 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.