x

Culture

Court Orders Shorter Sentence for “Tiger King” Joe Exotic

DENVER — A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that "Tiger King" Joe Exotic should get a shorter prison sentence for his role in a murder-for-hire plot and violating federal wildlife laws. 

Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison after being convicted of trying to hire two different men to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin. A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver found that the trial court wrongly treated those two convictions separately in calculating his prison term under sentencing guidelines.

The blond mullet-wearing zookeeper, known for his expletive-laden rants on YouTube and a failed 2018 Oklahoma gubernatorial campaign, was prominently featured in the popular Netflix documentary "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness."

The panel agreed with Maldonado-Passage that the court should have treated them as one conviction at sentencing because they both involved the same goal of killing Baskin, who runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida. According to the ruling, the court should have calculated his advisory sentencing range to be between 17 1/2 years and just under 22 years in prison, rather than between just under 22 years and 27 years in prison. The court ordered the trial court to re-sentence Maldonado-Passage.

It's possible that Maldonado-Passage could receive an even lower sentence than the range cited in the ruling because the court has to consider other factors too, his appeals attorney, Brandon Sample, said.

Meanwhile, another attorney representing Maldonado-Passage, John M. Phillips, hinted at the possibility of seeking a new trial, saying in a statement he would be filing motions citing previously undisclosed and newly discovered evidence in the case as well as examples of government misconduct. 

"People should know what they saw on television isn't the full truth. It isn't even the tip of the iceberg. It was snowflakes on the tip of the iceberg, largely manufactured by those who wanted to see Joe Exotic in jail for their own benefit," he said.

Maldonado-Passage, who has maintained his innocence, was also sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records. 

His supporters were disappointed that former President Donald Trump failed to issue him a pardon before leaving office. They were so confident in his chances that they had readied a celebratory limousine and a hair and wardrobe team to whisk him away from prison.

In his pardon application, Maldonado-Passage's attorneys argued that he was "railroaded and betrayed" by others and said "he will likely die in prison" because of health concerns. He is serving his sentence at a medical prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

RELATED

The late Betty White was a tireless lifetime advocate for animals, from caring for those without homes to launching her own weekly TV show, "The Pet Set," dedicated to her celebrity friends and their pets.

Top Stories

Politics

BOSTON – The newly-elected mayor of Somerville, a town adjacent to Boston and Cambridge, Katjana Ballantyne, was born in Greece and immigrated to the United States at the age of four.

Associations

ATHENS – A new initiative to unite the commercial elements of the Hellenic Diaspora with each other and with Greece was launched on January 10 at the Athens War Museum.

Politics

ANKARA - After declaring he wants a step back toward diplomacy from aggression against Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doubled down on the tough talk and provocations, going after Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and sending fighter jets into Greek airspace.

Video

White House: Russia Prepping Pretext for Ukraine Invasion

WASHINGTON — US intelligence officials have determined a Russian effort is underway to create a pretext for its troops to further invade Ukraine, and Moscow has already prepositioned operatives to conduct "a false-flag operation" in eastern Ukraine, according to the White House.