This afternoon, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a disgraced Oklahoma zookeeper with a blonde mullet who calls himself “Joe Exotic,” was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison after attempting to kill Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue CEO Carole Baskin in a failed murder-for-hire plot, reports The Oklahoman.
Maldonado-Passage was convicted in April of 2019 on 21 counts, including plotting to kill Baskin, who had criticized his treatment of animals, as well as wildlife trafficking, animal abuse, and euthanizing five tigers.
According to the indictment, Maldonado-Passage hired two hitmen to kill Baskin on two different occasions. One of them was paid $3,000 in November of 2017 but never made it to Florida, and the other was an undercover FBI agent.
Though Baskin was never harmed, Maldonado-Passage claimed he never truly wanted her dead. He also testified in his own defense at trial, despite a judge’s warning.
Today’s sentencing marks the end of a long feud between Maldonado-Passage and Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary accredited by the renowned Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. For years, Baskin spoke out against Maldonado-Passage's tiger petting zoos, and his treatment of big cats.
"Because Big Cat Rescue has been a leader in working to stop what we view as abuse of big cats and been very effective in our work, I have received multiple death threats over the years," said Baskin in a Facebook Live video in September of 2018.
Besides being a tiger enthusiast, Joe Exotic was also a self-proclaimed country music star and ran for president in 2016 and then governor of Oklahoma in 2018. When he ran for governor, his campaign signs read, “Joe F--king Exotic.”
Following the sentencing, Maldonado-Passage took to Facebook to maintain his innocence and also say he plans to appeal the ruling.