OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma’s self-proclaimed “Tiger King” appeared to squander a final plea for freedom in federal court Wednesday just before he was sentenced to 22 years in jail.
In September, he was convicted in two murder-for-hire plots and more than a dozen wildlife charges.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was found guilty of trying to hire two different people at different times to kill one of his most outspoken critics, animal activist Carole Baskin.
During his sentencing Wednesday, Baskin read a statement to the judge saying Maldonado-Passage threatened to rape and kill her for a decade, and that as long as he’s free, she won’t feel safe.
“Maybe she was truly hurt by it but there was nobody going to get hurt in this,” said John Reinke, former manager of Maldonado-Passage’s roadside zoo, the Wynnewood Animal Park.
That was an argument the defense attorney made in court, asking the judge to consider the fact that one of the men hired for the murder was an undercover FBI agent.
“I still think it was all provoked,” Reinke said. “I don’t think it ever would have went this far without somebody pushing the issue.”
Joe Exotic also made a statement, explaining away accusations against him as being the fault of others. He admitted that threatening videos he made about Baskin crossed the line, but said it was in response to her criticism of him that included a website devoted to his alleged mistreatment of animals. Maldonado-Passage went on to say that he knows he did wrong, that the two years he’s already served in prison have been punishment enough, and begged the judge to let him go free to take care of his father.
But the judge was unmoved, saying his decision weighed heavily on the severity of the crimes. He jailed Maldonado-Passage for the wildlife charges that include the killing of five lions, and he gave him nine years for each time he sought to have Baskin violently murdered.
“I don’t believe Joe exotic will survive prison,” said Joe Exotic’s former gubernatorial campaign manager, Joshua Dial. “I don’t believe he will survive.”