Courtroom sketch of Joe Exotic from his early April hearing. courtesy Todd Pendleton and The Oklahoman

Former gubernatorial candidate found guilty of murder-for-hire

Joe Exotic paid an undercover FBI agent to take the life of a critic of his private zoo practices.

A federal jury has convicted Joe Exotic, an Oklahoma native, zoo owner, YouTuber and former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate, of attempting to hire a hitman to kill Carole Baskin, the founder of the Big Cat Rescue located outside of Tampa, Florida.

Joe Exotic, 56, born Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, propositioned an undercover FBI agent in December 2017 to murder Baskin, a known critic of Maldonado-Passage’s past treatment of animals, for $10,000. The agent recorded the interaction, which the prosecution played for the jury during the trial. In the recording, Maldonado-Passage is recorded to have told the agent to “Just, like, follow [Baskin] into a mall parking lot and just cap her and drive off.”

Maldonado-Passage opened a private zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma in 1999 that became controversial for its allowance of guests to play with its tiger cubs, reportedly until the paws of the tigers bled from over-interaction. His conviction for murder-for-hire follows an October 2017 conviction for causing the death of five tigers, as well as November 2016 and March 2018 convictions for selling tiger cubs.

Prosecutors also stated that Maldonado-Passage had paid Allen Glover, one of the workers at his zoo, $3,000 as a down payment in exchange for that worker to murder Baskin. Glover has since testified that he never intended to harm Baskin and that he allowed Maldonado-Passage to believe that the teardrop tattoo beneath his eye signified that he had killed before. Glover purportedly drove to Florida to warn Baskin, but ended up drunk and high at a beach party. He then told an anonymous informant about the Maldonado-Passage plot, who contacted authorities.

Commenting on Maldonado-Passage’s trial, Baskin has stated on that she is “grateful that justice was served and Joe Schreibvogel-Maldonado-Passage hopefully will serve time in prison and no longer present a threat either to [herself] or to his former big cats.” She goes on to explain that “For years, a network of big cat owners like [Maldonado-Passage] who have engaged in cruel cub petting schemes and the exhibition of big cats have also been engaging in the illegal sale of tigers.”

U.S. District Judge Scott Palk has yet to set a sentencing date, but Maldonado-Passage could theoretically expect up to 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

Several film crews and documentarians have approached Maldonado-Passage for the rights of his story, including “Dateline” producers, but it’s currently unclear what, if any, creative work will come from these meetings.

Post Author: Emily Every