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Tiger King’s Joe Exotic is set to be resentenced after the Netflix star appealed for his murder-for-hire convictions to be overturned.
Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was already behind bars when he rose to fame last year through the Netflix documentary Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, which detailed his life as a zoo keeper and the conflicts he faced with animal rights activist Carole Baskin.
Maldonado-Passage was found guilty in 2019 of trying to hire two different men to kill Baskin, as well as multiple wildlife violations, and was sentenced to 22 years in January 2020.
The zookeeper filed an appeal against the ruling, arguing that his convictions should be overturned because the trial court allowed Baskin to attend his entire trial despite being a listed government witness.
According to a court opinion cited by CNN, Maldonado-Passage also argued that the two counts he was sentenced for using interstate facilities in the commission of his murder-for-hire plots should have been combined because they ‘involved the same victim and two or more acts or transactions that were connected by a common criminal objective’.
In the opinion, filed on Wednesday, July 14, the US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the previous sentence and said that although the district court acted within its discretion in allowing Baskin to stay in the courtroom, it ‘erred by not grouping the two murder-for-hire convictions at sentencing’.
The ruling stated the district court should have calculated Maldonado-Passage’s advisory sentencing range to be between 17.5 years and just under 22 years in prison, rather than between just under 22 years and 27 years in prison, and therefore he should be re-sentenced.
Following the ruling, Maldonado-Passage’s appellate counsel said the Tiger King star is ‘pleased with the appellate court’s decision’.
His attorney, Brandon Sample, commented: ‘I am optimistic that the decision today is but one of many more victories to come for Joe — and his eventual freedom.’
Another attorney representing Maldonado-Passage, John M. Phillips, suggested that he may seek a new trial for his client by filing motions citing previously undisclosed and newly discovered evidence in the case, as well as examples of government misconduct, Associated Press reports.
In a statement, he commented: ‘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.’
After Maldonado-Passage was sentenced last year, a judgment awarded Baskin control of his Oklahoma animal park.
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