Exotic, who was born Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced to 264 months’ imprisonment in January 2020 when a court found him guilty of 21 charges, most stemming from wildlife charges concerning his care for big cats that he held in captivity.
Two of the charges were in connection to his murder-for-hire plot to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin.
The Oklahoma zoo keeper appealed his murder-for-hire convictions on the grounds that the court erred in allowing Baskin to attend the entire trial proceedings despite being a listed government witness and that the court failed to group his two murder-for-hire plot charges together, causing him to incur a lengthier sentence.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, Colo., in a court document filed Wednesday said it affirms Maldonado-Passage’s conviction and that the court acted within its discretion by allowing Baskin to witness the entire trial.
However, it did err by not grouping the two murder-for-hire convictions together, the court said.
“We affirm the conviction but vacate the sentence and remand for re-sentencing,” the judges said.
The court agreed with Maldonado-Passage that the two charges should have been grouped together as they involve the same victim with the common criminal objective of her murder.
Maldonado-Passage shot to fame as the eccentric titular character on the Netflix series that aired in 2020 about his Oklahoma big cat zoo and his murder-for-hire plot.
The court described the conflict between Maldonado-Passage and Baskin as “a rivalry made in heaven” that intensified after she sued the zoo keeper and won for copyright and trademark infringement.
Maldonado-Passage retaliated, mostly online, with threats but then he began plotting her death and had twice within a few weeks to hire men, one of whom was an undercover FBI agent, to kill her.