Tiger King's Joe Exotic to Be Resentenced in Murder-for-Hire Plot Conviction

Tiger King's Joe Exotic will be re-sentenced for his role in a murder-for-hire plot, while his conviction will be upheld, a federal appeals court has ruled.

By Corinne Heller Jul 14, 2021 9:55 PMTags
Watch: "Tiger King" Star Joe Exotic Drops Memoir Exclusive

Joe Exotic of Tiger King fame will receive a new prison sentence for his role in a murder-for-hire plot, although his original conviction stands.

In 2020, the wildlife park owner and reality star, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for two separate murder-for-hire plot counts after he allegedly attempted to hire two hitmen to try to kill rival Carole Baskin, and for other wildlife violations. At a hearing on Wednesday, July 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver vacated his existing sentence.

The federal appeals ruled that a trial court must give Joe, 58, a new single sentence for both murder-for-hire plot counts, saying they should have originally been grouped together as one conviction, not two, according to court records obtained by E! News.

"I got the best news I've had in a long time," Joe, 58, said in a phone call to one of his lawyers, as seen in a YouTube video provided by the Phillips & Hunt law firm.

Tiger King Stars: Where Are They Now?

Joe continued, "Today my sentence was vacated, which we knew was absolute crap to start with and I'm looking extremely forward to ...the rest of the lawyers proving the rest of my innocence in the very, very near future. We're going to get through all of this corruption and expose the truth for a chance and I'm finally going to have a voice in hopes to walk home."

One of Joe's lawyers, Brandon Sample, told E! News in a statement. "I am pleased with the appellate court's decision in Joe's case. I knew when I agreed to represent Joe that an appeal would be difficult, but I also knew that the law was on Joe's side. I am optimistic that the decision today is but one of many more victories to come for Joe—and his eventual freedom."

Santa Rose County Jail/AP/Shutterstock

Another one of Joe's lawyers, John M. Phillips, said in the same statement that the legal team plans to file motions on the star's behalf "that will reveal both undisclosed and newly discovered evidence as well as numerous examples of government misconduct."

"People should know what they saw in television isn't the full truth," the attorney said. "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. The truth will soon be told."

Baskin declined comment about Wednesday's court ruling when reached by E! News.

During his 2020 sentencing, Joe, star of the Netflix docu-series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, was given nine years for each murder-for-hire charge, plus four years for wildlife violations. He was convicted of eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying records of wildlife transactions in interstate commerce, and of nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act by personally shooting and killing five tigers without a veterinarian present.

News of the decision over Joe's re-sentencing comes amid Nicolas Cage's exit from the role of Joe in a planned Amazon series about the Tiger King, as reported by Variety. Sources close to the situation told the outlet that the project may be shopped to other outlets.

"I read two excellent scripts, which I did think were excellent, but I think Amazon ultimately felt that it was material that had become past tense because it took so long for it come together," Cage told Variety. "They felt at one point that it was lightning in a bottle, but that point has since faded into the distance and it's no longer relevant."

Amazon has not commented. Baskin shared the article on her Facebook page and write, "Nicholas Cage is one of my favorite actors and I know he would have been brilliant in the role, but it would forever ruin it for me to watch him in anything after seeing him play someone who I believe was so cruel to me, animals and others."

Peacock is also developing a separate Tiger King series starring Kate McKinnon and John Cameron Mitchell.

(E! and Peacock are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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