Listen to this article here
Reading Time 2 mins 19 secs
It’s mid-March 2020, we’re all still reeling from the Coronavirus epidemic and quarantine, yet we’re gifted with documentary gold–Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness.
To recap, Tiger King was a true-crime docu-series focused on the small but deeply interconnected society of big cat conservationists. The show primarily centers around Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, eccentric former owner of the G.W. Zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Throughout the docu-series, it highlights his bitter (almost deadly rivalry) with Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida.
While Baskin considers herself an “animal rights activist,” Joe Exotic maintains that she is a rival zookeeper whose aim is to eliminate any and all competition–allegedly including her ex-husband, who has been missing since August 18, 1997, and his body remains unfound (insert side-eye emoji).
Exotic and Baskin were relentless in their agitation against each other, as the two exchanged threatening videos, legal allegations, protests, and targeted harassment campaigns.
Though ultimately, the docu-series quickly turns dark when we learn of Joe Exotic’s conviction under federal murder-for-hire statutes when it comes to light that he paid a hitman to murder Baskin. His conviction also includes violations of the Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act, resulting in the 22-year federal prison sentence he was hoping former President Trump would pardon.
Joe was relentless about his campaign for clemency, maintaining his innocence in the murder-for-hire plot. He began his campaign last March, releasing a video proclaiming his innocence, even repainting a bus with the words: “President Trump, Please Pardon Joe Exotic.” Also, he wrote lengthy letters to Trump claiming that he’s been sexually abused in prison.
So sure Trump would come to his aid, Exotic and his team reserved a stretch limo for him to ride out in style; but a mere gaze out of the jailhouse window would be the closest he’d get at getting inside that limo.
During the final hours of Trump’s presidency, he issued 143 pardons or sentence commutations–none of which given to Joe Exotic.
Now 57-year-old Joe Exotic is fuming, taking a shot at the former president in a scathing tweet, writing, “I was too innocent and too gay to deserve a Pardon from Trump.”
He adds, “I only mattered to Don Jr. when he needed to make a comment about me to boost his social media post. Boy, were we all stupid to believe he actually stood for Equal Justice? His corrupt friends all come first.”
Team Tiger–Exotic’s group of lawyers–was so confident of his imminent release that they hired a hairdresser, also waiting in the stretch limo that Joe Exotic would never step a pinky toe inside. “He doesn’t want anyone to see him until his hair is done,” they said. Even speaking of a quick trip to McDonald’s so Exotic could enjoy a McRib sandwich.
Well, I hope Exotic befriends the jailhouse beautician and enjoys a McJailbird sandwich instead because it looks like he will, indeed, have to serve out his full sentence.
Personally speaking, I was rooting for Joe Exotic. I had the chance to visit his zoo while he still owned it and while it was still open in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Joe was quite the character, starting the show in a cape, performing a magic show, and then passing out condoms with his face on them. Exotic is not due for release until 2037.
High-profile figures who did receive pardons include rappers Kodak Black and Lil Wayne and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.