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No-Go for Joe Exotic: Trump Pardon List Omits ‘Tiger King'

The zookeeper-turned-reality-TV-star is serving a 22-year federal prison sentence in Texas

In this Aug. 28, 2013, file photo, Joseph Maldonado answers a question during an interview at the zoo he runs in Wynnewood, Okla. Federal prosecutors on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, announced that the zookeeper, also known as "Joe Exotic," and candidate for governor earlier this year, has been charged in a murder-for-hire scheme alleging he tried to hire someone to kill a Florida woman. Prosecutors allege Maldonado-Passage tried to hire two separate people to kill the woman, who wasn't harmed. Maldonado-Passage finished third in a three-way Libertarian primary in June.
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File

One name missing in President Donald Trump's flurry of pardons is "Tiger King" Joe Exotic.

His team was so confident in a pardon that they'd readied a celebratory limousine and a hair and wardrobe team to whisk away the zookeeper-turned-reality-TV-star, who is now serving a 22-year federal prison sentence in Texas. But he wasn't on the list announced Wednesday morning.

Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for his role in a failed murder-for-hire plot targeting his chief rival, Carole Baskin, who runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida. Baskin was not harmed.

The legal team for Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as “Joe Exotic” from the Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” says they believe Maldonado-Passage will receive a pardon from President Donald Trump.

Maldonado-Passage, who has maintained his innocence, was also sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records. A jury convicted him in April 2019.

In his pardon application filed in September, Maldonado-Passage's attorneys argued that he was "railroaded and betrayed" by others. Maldonado-Passage, 57, is scheduled to be released from custody in 2037, but his attorneys said in the application that "he will likely die in prison" because of health concerns.

Eric Love, a member of Maldonado-Passage's legal team, released a statement on Wednesday:

"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"

The blond mullet-wearing zookeeper, known for his expletive-laden rants on YouTube and a failed 2018 Oklahoma gubernatorial campaign, was prominently featured in the popular Netflix documentary "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness."

Copyright Associated Press
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