Former wildlife exhibitor and convicted animal abuser Joseph Maldonado Passage will spend one year less in prison after a resentencing January 28.
Passage, who went by the name “Joe Exotic” and the “Tiger King” will spend 21 years in captivity rather than 22, Federal Judge Scott Palk has ruled. In tears, Passage asked for a shorter sentence because he believes his medical conditions, including prostate cancer, will kill him. He doesn’t want to die behind bars after convictions for crimes he denies committing. Palk presides in Oklahoma City and was appointed to the Western District of Oklahoma by President Barack Obama in 2015.
The flamboyant showman was convicted of attempting to hire murderers to kill his chief critic, killing 5 tigers, illegally selling tiger cubs and false record keeping regarding animals in his charge. The lurid story became a Netflix series and a sequel. We have reported on it here. Passage ran the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood Oklahoma from 1999 until he ran into legal troubles in 2018. Maldonado Passage lost the park in his legal battles and it has since closed.
Passage locked horns with Carole Baskin, who operates Big Cat Rescue near Tampa, Florida. The two got into a business dispute, but Baskin disdained the way Passage treated animals in his custody. The legal battle escalated and Passage was eventually convicted of trying to have her killed. Because the Netflix series was so popular and created fans for Passage Baskin still feels threatened even though he is jailed.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary with locations in Colorado and Texas has been rescuing animals from his exhibitions. Last November they hosted a live event spotlighting the 141 rescues so far made.
The resentencing came about because Passage won an appeal on his original 22-year sentence. His attorneys argued that his original sentence violated federal sentencing guidelines The appeals court agreed that the sentence was miscalculated and sent it back to Judge Palk. The recalculated sentence is one year shorter.