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'Tiger King's' Joe Exotic To Be Resentenced In Federal Court

“It is time for JUSTICE. Free Joe Exotic,” an attorney for Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, wrote just hours before the hearing was scheduled to begin Friday.

By Jill Sederstrom
Joseph Maldonado

“Tiger King” star Joe Exotic will be resentenced in a federal court Friday.

Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is expected to appear in court Friday morning in Oklahoma City to receive his new sentence after an appeals court ruled last year that his initial sentence of 22 years behind bars was too long based on existing sentencing guidelines, according to The Associated Press.

The 10th Circuit Court of appeals ruled that the error was made after a jury convicted Maldonado-Passage of hiring two different men to kill long-time rival and animal welfare activist Carole Baskin. He was initially sentenced for each conviction although a three-judge panel later decided that it should have been treated as one conviction because both attempts targeted the same person.

They said the federal guidelines should have resulted in a sentence between 17 ½ years and 22 years behind bars.

Maldonado-Passage, who was also convicted of a series of wildlife violations, has continued to insist he is innocent.

His attorney John M. Phillips said while his legal team is hopeful he receives a “substantial” decrease to the sentence, they also see Friday’s hearing as a necessary step in the process before they can try to reverse the verdict.

“This hearing is a legal one. We will be asking that the charges essentially all run concurrently and there’s a substantial downward deviation in sentencing,” Phillips wrote on Twitter Friday morning. “However until this hearing is over, we can’t functionally attack the conviction/jury verdict.”

He added that he planned to wear Maldonado-Passage’s ornate pocket watch to the hearing for good luck.

“It is time for JUSTICE. Free Joe Exotic,” he wrote alongside a photo of the watch.

In another message Thursday night, Phillips said that he was “proud” to represent the reality star who rose to fame after the popular Netflix docuseries “Tiger King” was released in March of 2020 just as the country was going into a pandemic-driven lockdown.

Joseph A Maldonado isn't perfect. He isn't a Saint. But I love the guy,” he wrote. “We want to show the jury why they got it wrong and why they were mislead. Tomorrow starts the process. I am proud, so proud, of what I do and who I get to do it with and for. Justice for Joe Exotic.”

Maldonado-Passage is expected to appear once again before U.S. District Judge Scott Palk, who handed down his initial sentence in 2020.

At the time, Palk had admonished Maldonado-Passage for failing to take responsibility for his own actions.

"It is clear from the evidence in this case that you are convinced that you always know better and expect your explanations and directives to be taken at face value," he said. "You have routinely attempted to explain away your conduct, including today, blaming those around you, whether that is Carole Baskin, law enforcement, business partners or your own employees.”

According to prosecutors, Maldonado-Passage had tried to arrange the hit because he was upset with Baskin, who had accused him of exploiting tiger cubs for profit and was trying to collect on court judgments of more than $1 million against him at the time, the local paper reports.

He was recorded offering an undercover FBI agent $10,000 to kill Baskins by following her into a parking lot where the hit man would “just cap her and drive off,” The Associated Press reports. Maldonado-Passage has insisted he was joking at the time.

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