OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After learning that he would not be pardoned in the final moments of former President Donald Trump’s presidency, ‘Joe Exotic’ and his team issued statements on the refusal.
In 2018, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as “Joe Exotic” and former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of murder-for-hire.
Prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage gave a person $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to Florida to carry out the murder of big cat activist Carole Baskin and “allegedly agreed to pay thousands more after the deed,” said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.
A grand jury also indicted Maldonado-Passage on an additional 19 counts of wildlife charges, including the violation of the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act.
Prosecutors say he shot and killed five tigers in October 2017 to make room in cages for other big cats, and sold tiger cubs to raise money. He was also accused of falsifying records relating to the tigers, lions and a baby lemur which were purportedly being donated or transported for exhibition, but were actually sold.
Officials offered evidence in the form of recordings of Maldonado-Passage negotiating the hiring of an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a hitman. When talking about payment, Maldonado-Passage reportedly said, “I’ll just sell a bunch of tigers.”
The intended target of the hit was Carole Baskin, a chief critic of Maldonado-Passage. Baskin successfully sued Maldonado-Passage for trademark infringement in 2011, and was outspoken about the treatment of animals at the park.
The defense claimed their client was framed. They say he was all talk and had no intention of wanting Baskin dead.
The former Greater Wynnewood Animal Park owner was found guilty on all counts in 2019.
He was ultimately sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison for all of the convictions. Officials say he was sentenced to nine years in prison for each of the murder-for-hire convictions, and four years for the wildlife violations.
Following his sentence, Netflix announced that it was releasing a documentary series called ‘Tiger King’ about Maldonado-Passage’s life and the crimes.
Last year, a judge granted Baskin the rights to the land where the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park was located.
In September, Joe Exotic made headlines again when he sent a letter to President Donald Trump, asking for a pardon.
Maldonado-Passage started the letter writing, “If I have ever looked up to anyone it would be you. Not because I need you to save my life, but because you stand for what you believe no matter what anyone thinks.”
Joe Exotic ended the letter with, “Allow me to make you proud, to make America proud, to make the world proud. Be my hero please.”
After officials announced that Trump planned to pardon dozens of people in the final hours of his presidency, Joe Exotic and his team were confident that his name would be on the list.
In fact, Newsweek reported that a stretch-truck limousine was waiting to take Maldonado-Passage to a secret location once his pardon was official.
Once the pardons were announced, it was clear that Joe Exotic was not among them.
On Wednesday afternoon, Joe Exotic’s Twitter account released a statement from him.
“I was too innocent and too GAY to deserve a Pardon from Trump. I only mattered to Don Jr. when he needed to make a comment about me to boost his social media post. Boy were we all stupid to believe he actually stood for Equal Justice? His corrupt friends all come first,” Joe Exotic tweeted.
His team, Team Tiger, also released a statement, thanking fans and saying Maldonado-Passage is innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted.
“140 million Joe Exotic fans had a hard time getting out of bed this morning. We are as disappointed that The President did not sign Joe’s Pardon, as we were confident yesterday that he would. It is only because of you 140 million fans that Joe’s Pardon was even a possibility. Since his trial, the evidence has made it clear that Joe is not guilty but, rather, he is a victim of the persons he trusted most.
Team Tiger, just this morning spent two hours on the telephone with Joe and listened to his Direct Appeal Oral Arguments by Brandon Sample in Colorado. We will not stop, we will not rest until Joe’s injustice is corrected.”Team Tiger statement