“Tiger King” Joe Exotic, With Limo Waiting Outside Federal Prison, Fails to Receive Trump Pardon
Donald Trump ended his scandal tinged presidency by pardoning 73 criminals and commuting the sentences of 70 others at 1:00 a.m. ET Wednesday, but he failed to pardon Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as “Joe Exotic.”
Before the pandemic stole the limelight last year, the eccentric and openly gay Joe Exotic dominated the public consciousness as the star of Netflix’s “Tiger King” documentary, which enthralled U.S. audiences with its zany reality-TV tales of “murder, mayhem and madness.”
Exotic is currently serving a 22-year sentence in a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, on 17 counts of animal abuse and a murder-for-hire plot against his mortal enemy, the big-cats rights activist Carole Baskin.
Stating the obvious, one Twitter user joked that it should be common knowledge that Exotic would blame Baskin for the omission from Trump’s pardon list.
“You already know who Joe Exotic gonna blame for not getting pardoned,” the user posted alongside a photo of Exotic carrying the subtitle “Carole F*ckin’ Baskin.”
“It is the President’s Constitutional right to Pardon and we have to accept and respect his use of discretion. Our mission is just and continues,” Exotic’s attorney, Francisco Hernandez, said in a Facebook post Wednesday.
“Score remains 0:0 at the end of the first quarter. After an aggressive first quarter Hail Mary, team tiger didn’t score. Three quarters to go. #freejoeexotic,” Hernandez added.
In September, Joe Exotic submitted a handwritten letter to then-President Trump, calling the former reality television-star-turned-head-of-state his hero while echoing Trump’s scathing criticism of the feds.
“I have seen what they do to you,” he wrote at the time to Mr. Trump, adding that he had voted for the former Apprentice host in 2016 despite also briefly launching his own longshot presidential run that same year.
Continuing, the Netflix superstar argued that the legal basis for such a pardon was that he was “just some gay, gun-toting redneck in Oklahoma” rather than a flagrant abuser of federal wildlife protections who had an obsession with taking down his rival, Baskin.
“My parents and my life and everything we ever worked for was stolen by criminals who got everything,” the letter added, in reference to the fact that his infamous Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, eventually ended up in the hands of his rivals, Jeffery and Lauren Lowe.
The campaign to liberate Joe Exotic was spearheaded by private investigator Eric Love, who had been on standby outside of the Fort Worth Federal Medical Facility all day Tuesday in a stretch Dodge limousine while dozens of supporters also eagerly awaited the release of the eccentric big-cat afficionado.
“I’m out here, I’m excited,” Beatrice Salazar told CBS DFW. “My daughter wants to get his autograph. I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’re just out here watching and waiting.”
Trump’s failure to pardon the notorious zookeeper comes after the new owners of the Oklahoma zoo were ordered by a federal judge to hand over all lion and tiger cubs in their possession, along with their respective mothers, to federal authorities.
Last week, U.S. District Judge John F. Heil III ordered that the Lowes cede their big cats to the government based on persistent violations of the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act.
“The Lowes have showed a shocking disregard for both the health and welfare of their animals, as well as the law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Former President Trump also left supporters of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden disappointed after he failed to pardon the WikiLeaks founder and NSA whistleblower prior to exiting office, in spite of broadly misplaced hopes that the far-right president would do so in a final act of defiance against the Beltway establishment and so-called “deep state.”
However, political associates Steve Bannon and high-profile Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy were included in the eclectic list, which also included rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black.
Christine Assange, the Wikileaks founder’s mother, noted that she was “not shocked, just disappointed” by Trump’s decision.
“My private prediction was right,” she tweeted. “Courage is not always contagious.”
Joe Exotic’s fan’s were similarly disappointed, with some expressing emotions ranging from lividity to annoyance over the failure to pardon him.
“Absolutely livid that I’ve woken up to find Donald Trump didn’t pardon Joe Exotic on his last day,” one user said.
“Well annoyed trump didn’t pardon Joe Exotic,” another noted.
While a different account observed: “Sad that Joe Exotic didn’t get a pardon, just because I wanted to be able to tell my kids about it someday, but Lil Wayne is almost as good.”
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