FORT WORTH, Texas (KFOR) – The “Tiger King’s” claws are out, just days after his prison sentence was upheld by federal judges. Joe Exotic told News 4 he’s innocent and is fighting for a new trial.

“I feel safer now than I have in the past now because the worst thing [Joe Exotic & his attorneys] could of imagine has now taken place,” said Carole Baskin previously told News 4.

“She has no room to talk, okay? Because she belong here too,” said Joseph Maldonado in a phone interview with News 4.

In 2018, Maldonado, better known as “Joe Exotic” and ‘Tiger King” is the former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park in Oklahoma, was federally indicted and convicted in a murder-for-hire scheme against rival, Carole Baskin, a big cat activist.

“Those are just the two that people knew about from Tiger King,” said Baskin. “Most of them are a whole lot smarter than Joe Exotic. I think he was just the easiest for them to capture and put behind bars. “

One count was for hiring a hit man, who Joe Exotic said made the whole thing up.

“He’s just a creepy dude that gets into more illegal stuff than you could ever imagine. And I wanted nothing to do with it,” said Maldonado.

The other count was for working with an undercover FBI Agent. Maldonado says that was a set up, too.

“Nowhere do they have evidence that I offered them $10,000,” said Joe Exotic. “I asked him how much. He said ‘$10,000.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t have $10,000”

“Every time I’d just the excuse ‘well, I have to wait until I have more baby tigers born because that was my excuse to say no,” said Maldonado during the call. “I couldn’t get past them until I asked the questions and make it sound like I was interested.”

In August, Joe Exotic’s attorney appealed his sentence, saying the two counts should be grouped together which would shorten his 21-year sentence.

“The court said, explicitly to me, asked whether or not he could run counts one and counts two consecutive or concurrent,” said Molly Parmer, one of Maldonado’s attorneys. “You can’t run them consecutively because it will violate due process.”

On December 23rd 2022, the judges upheld the sentence, writing “Although, they shared a common target, evidence indicates the hitmen shared little else.”

The judges also said the hitmen “received different instructions at different times: and they had entirely separate rewards.”

“It’s such poetic justice that he’s now being kept in a cage about the same size as the ones that he bred so many of those big cats to live in for their entire lives,” said Baskin.

However, Joe Exotic said that’s not exactly the case.

“I’ve got news for her and the entire world. I’m at a medical center in Fort Worth, Texas. Okay? It’s like a college campus,” said Joe Exotic. “Other than not being able to go across the street to Whataburger. She has not put me in a small cage. Did she ruin my life? Absolutely.”

To this day, The Tiger King claims he was framed.

“My entire life has been not just destroyed or taken away from me. I lost my zoo. I’ve lost my parents, I’ve lost my marriage,” said Maldonado. “I ain’t got no clothes even anymore.”

Baskin told News 4 she expects more appeals. Joe Exotic told News 4 she’s right.

“I would hope that it was over but I sincerely doubt that, because what else has he got to d but have people file all kinds of nonsense,” said Baskin.

“Joe has a legal right to file them ‘More nonsense’,” said Joe Exotic.” I’m never going to own tigers again. I never want to own animals again. I just want to go home. To what home I think I have and that that’s in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

“Can I move on and forget Carole Baskin. I wish she could forget me, but she won’t,” said Joe Exotic.

Maldonado told News 4 he’s now waiting for a judge to answer his request for a new evidentiary hearing.

News 4 reached out to the FBI, but we did not hear back. News 4 plans to follow up after the holiday.