Jury to hear closing arguments in murder-for-hire case against ‘Joe Exotic’

OKLAHOMA CITY — After six days of testimony, prosecutors and defense attorneys will deliver closing arguments in the murder-for-hire trial against ‘Joe Exotic’.’

The defendant, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, stands accused of trying twice to hire someone to murder Florida sanctuary owner Carole Baskin. The former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park and former gubernatorial candidate also faces more than a dozen wildlife charges, including violation of the Endangered Species Act.

The government alleges he illegally shot and killed five healthy tigers at the Garvin County park in the fall of 2017.

On Thursday, Maldonado-Passage took the stand in his own defense claiming he has been framed and that this was part of a bigger and more elaborate scheme. While he did not deny his frustration over legal battles with Baskin, he insists he did not want her dead.

The government presented more than a dozen witnesses during trial, including a long-time acquaintance of Maldonado-Passage secretly working with the FBI as an informant. He testified he introduced “a friend” to Maldonado-Passage, who has since been revealed as an undercover agent posing as a hitman.

Secretly taped recordings and phone calls between Maldonado-Passage, the informant, and the undercover agent show the defendant were also used as evidence.

Court resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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