Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Nation & World

'Joe Exotic’ sentenced in plot to arrange killing of Big Cat Rescue CEO in Tampa

A federal judge sentenced Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage to 22 years in prison for trying to arrange the killing of Carole Baskin.
In this Aug. 28, 2013, file photo, Joseph Maldonado answers a question during an interview at the zoo he runs in Wynnewood, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File) [SUE OGROCKI  |  AP]
In this Aug. 28, 2013, file photo, Joseph Maldonado answers a question during an interview at the zoo he runs in Wynnewood, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File) [SUE OGROCKI | AP]
Published Jan. 22
Updated Jan. 22

OKLAHOMA CITY — A former Oklahoma zookeeper and one-time candidate for governor was sentenced Wednesday to 22 years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot and violating federal wildlife laws.

A federal judge in Oklahoma City sentenced 56-year-old Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage — who is also known as “Joe Exotic" — for trying to arrange the killing of a Florida animal sanctuary founder who criticized his treatment of animals. The woman, founder and CEO of animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue Carole Baskin, wasn’t harmed.

Related: 'Murder for hire' plot against Tampa's Big Cat Rescue CEO leads to arrest of Oklahoma candidate for governor

Maldonado, who maintained his innocence, also was sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records. A jury convicted him last April.

“I still maintain my innocence and looking forward in the upcoming days to my attorneys filing my appeal and moving onto the next step in this nightmare," he said in a statement posted to his Facebook page.

Press Statement Joe Exotic I still maintain my innocence and looking forward in the upcoming days to my attorneys...

Posted by Joseph A Maldonado-Passage on Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys had argued for lenience, noting he had no previous criminal convictions and that because of his poor health, a sentence within the advisory guidelines would amount to a life sentence. Prosecutors were satisfied with the sentence.

“We are thankful for the Court’s thoughtful consideration of the gravity of this murder-for-hire scheme, as well as the defendant’s egregious wildlife crimes in imposing a 22-year sentence,” U.S. Attorney Tim Downing said in a statement.

During last year's trial, a jury heard evidence that Maldonado-Passage paid a man $3,000 to travel to Florida and kill Baskin, with a promise to pay more after she was dead. Maldonado-Passage was upset that Baskin, an outspoken critic of his, had won a million-dollar civil judgment against him.

Related: Joe Exotic hired men to kill Big Cat Rescue’s CEO in Tampa. It’s now a true crime podcast.

After his initial attempt failed, prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage offered $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent to kill Baskin during a meeting that was recorded and played for the jury. In the recording, he told the agent, “Just like follow her into a mall parking lot and just cap her and drive off."

Known for his blonde mullet and expletive-laden rants on YouTube, Maldonado-Passage appeared on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” when he was a 2016 write-in candidate for president. The next year, he announced his candidacy as a Libertarian candidate for Oklahoma governor, ultimately finishing third in a three-way primary. During the campaign, his 23-year-old husband, Travis Moldonado, died after authorities say he accidentally fatally shot himself in the head. Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes said at the time that witnesses reported Moldonado put a loaded firearm to his head and pulled the trigger to prove the weapon would not fire with the magazine removed.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. In this March 14, 2012, file photo, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the media outside his home in Chicago as his wife, Patti, wipes away tears a day before reporting to prison after his conviction on corruption charges. President Donald Trump is expected to commute the 14-year prison sentence of Blagojevich. The 63-year-old Democrat is expected to walk out of prison later Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
  2. In this Aug. 8, 2015, file photo former owner of the San Francisco 49ers Edward DeBartolo, Jr., is interviewed before the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. President Donald Trump pardoned DeBartolo, who was convicted in gambling fraud scandal. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
  3. In this Nov. 7, 2019 file photo, the first panels of levee border wall are seen at a construction site along the U.S.-Mexico border, in Donna, Texas. The Trump administration said Tuesday that it will waive federal contracting laws to speed construction of the border wall with Mexico. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
  4. Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg gives his thumbs-up after speaking during a campaign event at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond, Va., Feb. 15, 2020. (James H. Wallace/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
  5. In this Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, photo, a statue stands outside the Boys Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas. The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy protection as it faces a barrage of new sex-abuse lawsuits. The filing Tuesday, in Wilmington, Delaware, is an attempt to work out a potentially mammoth compensation plan for abuse victims that will allow the 110-year-old organization to carry on. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
  6. In this Feb. 13, 2020, file photo, a security guard stands near the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, near Tokyo. After 14 days, an extraordinary quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship ends Wednesday, with thousands of passengers and crew set to disembark over the next several days in the port of Yokohama. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
  7. Carla Stefaniak (left) was vacationing in Costa Rica in 2018 when authorities say she was killed by Bismarck Espinoza Martínez (right) of Nicaragua. He was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
  8. The cover for the audiobook of True Grit/
  9. In this image from a video taken on Monday, U.S. passengers who evacuated off the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess and officials wait for the takeoff of a Kalitta Air airplane bound for the U.S., at Haneda airport in Tokyo.(Cheryl and Paul Molesky via AP)
  10. In this Oct. 28, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump shakes hands with Attorney General William Barr before Trump signed an executive order creating a commission to study law enforcement and justice at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Convention in Chicago.
  11. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, shakes hands with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani,during the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Friday. The 2020 edition of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) takes place from Friday to Sunday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool photo via AP)
  12. In this July 11, 2019, file photo, Attorney General William Barr, left, and President Donald Trump turn to leave after speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington. Attorney General William Barr took a public swipe Thursday at President Donald Trump, saying that the president’s tweets about Justice Department prosecutors and cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.”  Barr made the comment during an interview with ABC News just days after the Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors. they had initially recommended in a court filing that President Donald Trump’s longtime ally and confidant Roger Stone be sentenced to 7 to 9 years in prison. But the next day, the Justice Department took the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek for Stone. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement