‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic sentenced to 21 years in prison: NPR


An Oklahoma City judge has dropped the 22-year prison sentence of Joe Exotic, seen here in 2013, who was convicted of a murder-for-hire conspiracy against rival Carole Baskin by one year.

Sue Ogrocki/AP

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Sue Ogrocki/AP

An Oklahoma City judge has dropped the 22-year prison sentence of Joe Exotic, seen here in 2013, who was convicted of a murder-for-hire conspiracy against rival Carole Baskin by one year.

Sue Ogrocki/AP

OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal judge sentenced “Tiger King” Joe Exotic to 21 years in prison on Friday, reducing his sentence by just one year despite appeals for clemency from the former zookeeper as he begins treatment for early stage cancer.

“Please don’t make me die in jail waiting for a chance to be free,” he tearfully told a federal judge who charged him with a murder-for-hire charge.

Joe Exotic – whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage – has been found guilty in a case involving animal welfare activist Carole Baskin. The two were featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”

Dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, Maldonado-Passage, 58, still had her trademark mullet hairstyle, but the bleached blonde had gone brown and gray.

Baskin and her husband, Howard Baskin, also attended the proceedings, and she said she feared Maldonado-Passage might threaten her.

“He continues to harbor intense feelings of ill will towards me,” she told the judge.

Baskin said that even with Maldonado-Passage in prison, she continued to receive “vile, abusive and threatening communications” over the past two years. She told the judge she thought Maldonado-Passage posed an even more serious threat to her now that he had a bigger following due to the popularity of the Netflix series.

Maldonado-Passage’s lawyers told the judge their client had stage 1 prostate cancer, as well as a disease that compromises his immune system, making him particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Stage 1 prostate cancer means it was caught early and hasn’t spread. Maldonado-Passage previously said he planned to delay treatment until after his sentencing. Federal officials said Maldonado-Passage will need eight weeks of radiation therapy and will not be able to travel during treatments.

His attorney Amy Hanna told the judge he was not receiving proper medical care in the federal prison system and that a long prison sentence is a “death sentence for Joe that he does not deserve.”

Prosecutors also told the judge on Friday that Maldonado-Passage received disciplinary action in September for possessing a contraband cellphone and unauthorized headphones that were not listed in his pre-sentencing report. Palk added that Maldonado-Passage had already written four disciplinary articles, although he described them as “relatively minor and non-violent”.

Friday’s court proceedings came after a federal appeals court ruled last year that the prison sentence he was serving for murder-for-hire should be shortened.

Supporters filled the courtroom, some wearing animal-print face masks and shirts that read “Free Joe Exotic.” His lawyers said they would appeal the new conviction and seek a new trial.

“The defense submitted a series of exhibits showing excessive government involvement in creating the offense for which he was convicted,” attorney Molly Parmer told reporters after the hearing.

“We will continue our post-conviction litigation, but we have previewed for the court the evidence we have through our post-conviction investigation.”

The former zookeeper was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of trying to hire two different men to kill Baskin. A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Maldonado-Passage that the court should have treated them as one conviction when determining the sentence, as they both involved the same goal of killing Baskin. , which runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida and had criticized Maldonado-Passage’s treatment of animals.

Prosecutors said Maldonado-Passage offered $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent to kill Baskin in a taped meeting in December 2017. In the recording, he told the agent, “Just like following her in a mall parking lot and just style her and leave.” Lawyers for Maldonado-Passage said their client — who once operated a zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, about 105 miles south of Oklahoma City — wasn’t serious.

Maldonado-Passage, who maintains his innocence, was also found guilty of killing five tigers, selling cubs and falsifying wildlife records.


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