Joe Exotic, the zookeeper convicted of masterminding a murder-for-hire plot of animal rights activist Carole Baskin, had his sentence overturned by a Court of Appeals in Denver on Wednesday, but the mullet-coifed gay star of the Netflix docu-series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness won’t be escaping jail any time soon.
The 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado ruled the lower court had erred in sentencing Exotic (whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage) for the double murder attempts. Instead of calculating prison terms for the convictions separately, the court should have instead considered the two crimes as one conviction for sentencing since they both involved the same goal of murdering his rival and nemesis, Baskin.
“We agree with Maldonado-Passage that the district court should have grouped the two counts,” the court said in its ruling, agreeing with Exotic’s appeal.
Exotic had been sentenced to a sentence of roughly 22 to 27 years in prison when the appropriate combined sentence should have been between 17 1/2 and 22 years instead. While the court vacated the sentencing, there was no disputing Exotic was guilty.
“For the foregoing reasons, we affirm Maldonado-Passage’s conviction but vacate the sentence and remand for resentencing,” the Court of Appeals ruled.
The out and outlandish Exotic ran the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. The zoo housed around 200 big cats including tigers, lions, and pumas as well as ligers and tigons. He was accused by many animal rights activists, including Baskin, of misuse of animals, including staging shows where the audience could pet small cubs and animals. The feud was the centerpiece of the Netflix reality series and the motivation for his multiple efforts to hire someone to kill Baskin.
Exotic was never shy about his sexuality on the Netflix show and was married multiple times. His first partner, Brian Rhyne, died of complications from HIV in 2001, and another marriage saw him wed his two partners simultaneously. One of his former husbands, Dillon Passage, earlier this month let fans know he had already moved on from Exotic, introducing his new boyfriend via Instagram.
"Everyone, meet John," Passage wrote on Instagram.
Exotic also ran as an Independent Party candidate for president in 2016. He made the ballot in Colorado and received 962 votes. In 2018, he finished third out of three candidates in the Independent Party primary for Governor of Oklahoma.
It was announced last year that Kate McKinnon will head a new series about the life of Exotic entitled Joe Exotic and star John Cameron Mitchell in the title role.
The 58-year-old Exotic was convicted by a jury for the double murder attempts and other charges in April of 2019 and was sentenced in January of last year. He remains in custody while his case is returned to the lower court for resentencing.