‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic delays prostate cancer treatment for resentencing

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Joseph Maldonado-Passage, the controversial former big-cat zoo owner, will go to court for resentencing in January. (Santa Rosa County Jail via AP, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, is delaying his prostate cancer treatment for resentencing in early 2022.

Maldonado-Passage, the controversial former big-cat zoo owner, better known as “Tiger King,” will go to court for resentencing in January.

His attorneys filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on Wednesday, requesting that the resentencing be scheduled between Jan. 20 and Jan. 31, 2022.

He’s serving a 22-year prison sentence for a murder-for-hire conviction — having attempted to hire two different men to kill his rival, big-cat activist Carole Baskin — as well as federal wildlife charges related to killing and selling tigers.

Maldonado-Passage, 58, was transferred from the Fort Worth Federal Medical Center to the Butner Federal Medical Center in North Carolina on Nov. 17, upon being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

His lead attorney, John Phillips, said Maldonado-Passage was provided little follow-up care for his cancer after he was transferred.

“He was told he needed radiation therapy, which the Department of Justice/U.S. Attorney’s Office used to justify asking the court to schedule re-sentencing in March or April of 2022,” Phillips said in an email to news agencies. “We strongly objected and met with multiple physicians about Joe’s cancer and health.”

Maldonado-Passage chose to delay radiation treatment so he can receive an earlier resentencing, which Phillips said is “long overdue.”

In 2018, Maldonado-Passage, the former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of murder-for-hire.

Prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage gave a person $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to Florida to carry out the murder of Baskin and “allegedly agreed to pay thousands more after the deed,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.

A grand jury also indicted Maldonado-Passage on an additional 19 counts of wildlife charges, including the violation of the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act.

Prosecutors say he shot and killed five tigers in October 2017 to make room in cages for other big cats, and sold tiger cubs to raise money.

He was also accused of falsifying records relating to the tigers, lions and a baby lemur which were purportedly being donated or transported for exhibition, but were actually sold.

Officials offered evidence in the form of recordings of Maldonado-Passage negotiating the hiring of an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a hitman. When talking about payment, Maldonado-Passage reportedly said, “I’ll just sell a bunch of tigers.”

ILE - In this July 20, 2017 file photo, Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa, Fla. Baskin was married to Jack “Don” Lewis, whose 1997 disappearance remains unsolved and is the subject of a new Netflix series “Tiger King.” (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)
FILE – In this July 20, 2017 file photo, Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa, Fla. Baskin was married to Jack “Don” Lewis, whose 1997 disappearance remains unsolved and is the subject of a new Netflix series “Tiger King.” (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

The intended target of the hit was Baskin, a chief critic of Maldonado-Passage. Baskin successfully sued Maldonado-Passage for trademark infringement in 2011, and was outspoken about the treatment of animals at the park.

The defense claimed their client was framed. They say he was all talk and had no intention of wanting Baskin dead.

Maldonado-Passage was found guilty on all counts in 2019.

He was ultimately sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison for all of the convictions. Officials say he was sentenced to nine years in prison for each of the murder-for-hire convictions, and four years for the wildlife violations.

In July, a federal court found that the trial court wrongly treated Maldonado-Passage’s two convictions separately in calculating his prison term. Instead, they say the court should have treated them as one conviction at sentencing.

Resentencing Motion by KFOR on Scribd

According to the ruling, the court should have calculated his advisory sentencing range to be between 17 1/2 years and just under 22 years in prison, rather than between just under 22 years and 27 years in prison. The court ordered the trial court to re-sentence Maldonado-Passage.

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