Joe Exotic, whose misadventures and murderous scheme fascinated millions of Netflix addicts during the COVID lockdowns, has added another twisted chapter to the saga of his downfall.
At a court appearance marked by fans in animal masks and makeup, a federal US judge has re-sentenced the flamboyant former zookeeper to 21 years in prison, reducing his punishment by just a year.
The ruling came despite pleas for leniency as Exotic begins treatment for cancer.
“Please don’t make me die in prison waiting for a chance to be free,” he begged the judge who re-sentenced him on a murder-for-hire charge.
Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was convicted in a case involving animal welfare activist Carole Baskin.
Both were featured in Netflix’s hit series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, Exotic still had his trademark mullet hairstyle but the bleach-blonde was fading to grey.
Fear lives on
Baskin and her husband, who now run Exotic’s private zoo, also attended the proceedings and she said she remained fearful that Maldonado-Passage could threaten her.
“He continues to harbour intense feelings of ill will toward me,” she said.
Friday’s court proceedings came about after a federal appeals court ruled last year that the prison term he is serving on a murder-for-hire conviction should be shortened.
Supporters packed the courtroom, some wearing animal-print masks and shirts that read “Free Joe Exotic”.
His lawyers said they would appeal both the re-sentencing and petition for a new trial.
The former zookeeper was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in prison after he was convicted of trying to hire two different men to kill Baskin.
A three-judge panel of the 10th US 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 a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida and had criticised Maldonado-Passage’s treatment of animals.
‘Just cap her’
Prosecutors said Maldonado-Passage offered $US10,000 ($A14,283) 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 lawyers have said their client – who once operated a zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, about 105km south of Oklahoma City – was not being serious.
Maldonado-Passage, who maintains his innocence, also was convicted of killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records.