A court victory for Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic: His 22-year prison sentence was overturned by a federal appeals court Wednesday, though his convictions were upheld and he will be resentenced at a later date, Insider reports. The former Oklahoma zoo owner, made famous by Netflix's Tiger King series, was sentenced in early 2020 to nine years for each of two counts of murder-for-hire and four years for wildlife violations including killing five tigers. The US 10th District Court ruled that when he was sentenced, the judge should have grouped the two murder-for-hire convictions, which would have lowered the sentencing range, reports KFOR.
The court said that although Maldonado-Passage "hired two different hitmen on two different occasions," the acts shared a "common criminal objective"—the murder of big-cat rights activist Carole Baskin. "We hold that the district court acted within its discretion by allowing Baskin to attend the full trial proceedings despite her being listed as a government witness, but that it erred by not grouping the two murder-for-hire convictions at sentencing," the ruling stated. The case is now being sent back to the sentencing judge, People reports. Maldonado-Passage, who sought a pardon in the final days of Donald Trump's presidency, will remain in custody during the resentencing process. (Read more Joe Exotic stories.)