The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Joe Exotic's sentence but affirmed his conviction, according to a court opinion filed on Wednesday.
The court ordered Joseph Maldonado-Passage to be resentenced and to group the two murder-for-hire convictions for sentencing.
Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 264 months (22 years) in prison after a federal jury in Oklahoma City convicted him of 21 counts. Two of those counts were for using interstate facilities in the commission for his murder-for-hire plots.
A jury found Maldonado-Passage of trying to have Carole Baskin, of Florida, killed as well as many wildlife crimes.
Maldonado-Passage's legal team filed an appeal and disputed his murder-for-hire convictions and argued that the district court erred by allowing Baskin, a listed government witness, to attend the entire trial proceedings.
The appeal disputed his sentence and argued the trial court erred by not grouping his two murder-for-hire convictions in calculating his advisory guidelines range.
His legal team contended the guidelines required the district court to group the two counts because they involved the same victim and two or more acts or transactions that were connected by a common criminal objective: murdering Baskin.
The appeals court said the United States District Court for the Western District in Oklahoma City erred by not grouping the two murder-for-hire convictions at sentencing, but the court acted within its discretion by allowing Baskin to attend the full trial proceedings despite being listed as a government witness.
The court affirmed the conviction but vacated the sentence and remand for resentencing. This would most likely give Maldonado-Passage a shorter prison sentence.