GRADY COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) — The “Tiger King” is once again seeking a presidential pardon, saying he is showing signs of cancer but that he doesn’t want “anyone’s pity.”
The former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park says his lawyer, John Phillips, is working on a new pardon from Pres. Joe Biden. Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as “Joe Exotic,” tweeted about again seeking a pardon:
Maldonado-Passage said he has an appointment with an oncologist later this month, where a biopsy will be performed. He added, “Thank you for all the love and support from all over the world. I love you all. Wish me luck.”
In January 2020, the so-called Tiger King was sentenced 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. Then in January 2021, he was confident he would receive a pardon from former President Donald Trump. However, that pardon never came.
In 2018, Maldonado-Passage 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 Baskin and “allegedly agreed to pay thousands more after the deed,” said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.
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 defense claimed their client was framed. They say he was all talk and had no intention of having Baskin killed. An outspoken critic of Maldonado-Passage’s treatment of animals, Baskin was not harmed. In 2011, she successfully sued him for trademark infringement.
A grand jury also indicted Maldonado-Passage on an additional 19 counts of wildlife charges, including the violation of the Endangered Species and Lacey Acts. 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.
Maldonado-Passage was found guilty on all counts in 2019. 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.