A federal appeals court has thrown out a 22-year prison sentence for “Tiger King” Joe Exotic in his 2019 murder-for-hire conviction in an alleged plot to kill rival big cat activist, Carole Baskin.

The ruling doesn’t mean that the “Tiger King,” whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, will become a free man, however. The 10th District Court in Denver upheld his conviction, but sent the case back to federal court in Oklahoma for re-sentencing.

The ruling determined that Maldonado-Passage’s original sentence was incorrect because it didn’t properly group the two separate murder-for-hire charges for which he was convicted and treated them separately. He had been given nine years for each charge, plus four years for other wildlife violations.

Maldonado-Passage’s legal saga became national news as the result of the hit 2020 Netflix

series, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” which focused on the Oklahoma big-cat park he ran in Oklahoma.

In 2018, Maldonado-Passage was indicted for allegedly trying to hire a hitman to kill Baskin, who also ran a tiger rescue park in Florida and had been a vocal critic of his for how he treated animals. The two had previously engaged in legal battles over trademarks.

Federal prosecutors presented recordings of phone calls in which Maldonado-Passage allegedly offered an undercover FBI agent $3,000 up front for the job and more once it was completed. Maldonado-Passage said that to pay for it, he would “just sell a bunch of tigers.”

At trial, Maldonado-Passage argued that he had been framed, and that he didn’t seriously want Baskin killed.

In his appeal, he had also argued that his conviction should be overturned as well on the grounds that prosecutors had allowed Baskin to sit in the audience during his entire trial despite the fact that she was also a witness, but the court disagreed and allowed the conviction to stand.

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