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‘Tiger King’ Star Joe Exotic Denied Release, Resentenced to 21 Years

Judge reduces former zookeeper’s prison time by one year despite pleas for leniency

A federal judge in Oklahoma resentenced “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, to 21 years in prison on Friday, denying his appeal for early release before he begins treatment for cancer.

“Please don’t make me die in prison waiting for a chance to be free,” Maldonado-Passage, 58, said to the judge, who took only one year off his original sentence.

In January 2020, Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison following his conviction for trying to hire two men to kill animal activist Carole Baskin. Both were featured in Netflix’s pandemic streaming hit “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”

According to the Associated Press, the court was packed with supporters wearing animal-print masks and T-shirts that read “Free Joe Exotic.” His attorneys said they would appeal the new sentence and petition the court for a new trial. Maldonado-Passage has continually maintained his innocence in the case.

Baskin and her husband were also in court, and she told AP she is still afraid of her rival. “He continues to harbor intense feelings of ill will toward me,” she said.

Maldonado-Passage was also convicted of killing five tigers, illegally selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records.

In a statement shared with TheWrap about the revised sentence, PETA Foundation deputy general counsel of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet, who also appeared in “Tiger King,” referred to Maldonado-Passage as a “wildlife pimp” and urged authorities to also charge his associates.

“This ruling confirms that ‘Joe Exotic,’ a wretched man whose name has become synonymous with animal exploitation, will spend most if not all of the rest of his life in prison. PETA has rescued nearly 40 animals from this wildlife pimp and is calling on federal officials to charge the rest of his animal-abusing former associates, who, unlike the big cats they have abused, deserve to be behind bars just as much as he does,” Peet wrote.

“Tiger King 2” debuted on Netflix in November. Baskin now stars in her own series, “Carole Baskin’s Cage Fight” on Discovery+.

Peacock’s limited series “Joe Exotic” with John Cameron Mitchell as the title character and Kate McKinnon as Baskin debuts on March 3.