By Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — A federal judge has sentenced “Tiger King” Joe Exotic, convicted in a murder-for-hire plot to kill Florida animal welfare activist Carole Baskin, to 21 years in prison.

The new sentencing comes after an appeals court ruled last year that the prison term he’s serving should be shortened.

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The sentence was lower than his previous sentence of 22 years.

Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, will be sent to a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

The former zookeeper was sentenced in January 2020 after he was convicted 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 at sentencing because they both involved the same goal of killing Baskin, who runs Big Cat Rescue near Tampa and had criticized Maldonado-Passage’s treatment of animals.

Carole Baskin (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Both were featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.” The show was a breakout hit as people were forced to stay home in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Prosecutors said Maldonado-Passage offered $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent to kill Baskin during a recorded December 2017 meeting. In the recording, he told the agent, “Just like follow her into a mall parking lot and just cap her and drive off.” Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys have said their client — who once operated a zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, about 65 miles south of Oklahoma City — wasn’t being serious.

Maldonado-Passage, who maintains his innocence, also was convicted of killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records. His attorneys are asking for a lesser sentence than what the guidelines call for, alleging “imperfect entrapment, sentencing manipulation, and outrageous government conduct.”

“From decisions made in the initial stages of the investigation to charging decisions to overzealous sentencing recommendations, one thing remains clear: this case was about doing whatever it took to put Mr. Maldonado-Passage behind bars for as long as possible,” his attorneys wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Federal prosecutors said in court records that they would defer recommending a new sentence for Maldonado-Passage because of the allegations he raised.

“In the unlikely event that any of these claims withstand scrutiny and ultimately are determined to be credible, those developments could impact the United States’ ultimate sentencing recommendation” because the prosecutors are obligated to investigate them, U.S. Attorney Robert Troester wrote.

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