OKLAHOMA CITY – A former zookeeper accused in a murder-for-hire plot decided to take the stand in his own defense on Monday morning.
The former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, stands accused of trying twice to hire someone to murder Florida sanctuary owner Carole Baskin. His defense attorneys claim he was set up in the first instance and not serious in the second.
On Monday morning, Maldonado-Passage took the stand and testified about his relationship with Baskin. She had been a chief critic of his, calling his zoo “cruel.”
On the stand, Maldonado-Passage did not deny that their disagreements made it into his social media videos and posts. However, he says he never wanted her dead.
The government announced Friday morning their decision to dismiss two of the wildlife charges, specifically counts 13 and 14 as it relates to the Lacey Act. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the act enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of animals and plants.
Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys fought to have all of the remaining counts to be dismissed, citing their claim the government did not have sufficient evidence. The judge rejected the motion.