‘Joe Exotic’ testifies in murder-for-hire trial, claims he was set up

OKLAHOMA CITY - In the final day of testimony, the defense's last witness in the trial against 'Joe Exotic' was the defendant himself.

The former exotic zoo owner, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is facing two counts of hiring someone to commit murder and more than a dozen wildlife charges including the violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Prosecutors believe the intended target was Florida sanctuary Carole Baskin, Maldonado-Passage's chief critic who successfully sued him for $1 million in a trademark infringement lawsuit.

During his testimony Monday, Maldonado-Passage told the court it was no secret amongst park workers at the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park that he had disagreements with Baskin when it came to animal treatment.

"My problem with her is that she is a hypocrite," the defendant told the court Monday.

However, Maldonado-Passage claims he never wanted her dead. He also said Baskin was mentioned in some of his online videos but "there were thousands" that made no mention of her.

Maldonado-Passage and his attorneys said he was set up in the first alleged plot. They said he was not serious in the second alleged plan, which included an informant and an undercover agent who secretly recorded phone calls and conversations.

However, Maldonado-Passage noted he "had a gut feeling" that the undercover agent was actually a member of law enforcement. He also testified, in many of the conversations, he would not bring up the use of a hit-man. Instead, he said the topic would be brought up by the informant.

The government's questioning of the defendant Monday included past videos posted by him. They also questioned why he did not alert law enforcement if he felt he was being targeted.

Last week, prosecutors presented more than a dozen witnesses to the stand including former employees.

The jury was given instructions Monday. Closing arguments are expected to begin on Tuesday.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.