When former President Donald Trump issued several pardons in the final hours of his presidency, many thought Joseph Maldonado-Passage, infamously known as “Joe Exotic” or “Tiger King,” would get one, but he did not.
In 2018, Maldonado-Passage, former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of murder-for-hire. The intended target of the alleged “hit” was Carole Baskin, a chief critic of Maldonado-Passage.
Eric Love, the leader of Maldonado-Passage’s legal team, told KOCO News that he had expected the pardon sometime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesday. He said, “Trust me, anything you can think of we have it, including a doctor and also a mental health expert. Joe’s biggest thing is he can’t wait to get out, as you can imagine, and he doesn’t want anyone to see him until his hair is done. So, the most important person tomorrow is the hair and makeup and wardrobe.”
Prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage gave an associate $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 the 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.
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.