"Tiger King" star Joe Exotic’s legal team is so confident that President Donald Trump will pardon him during his last full day in office that they have a limo and beauty team ready to go.
Exotic, 57, is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for an attempted murder-for-hire plot targeting Carole Baskin, a big cat sanctuary owner and his longtime rival. For years, Baskin dogged Exotic's roadside zoo and cub-petting operation in Oklahoma with accusations of animal abuse. He, in turn, lobbed threats against her through his YouTube channel, as well as thinly veiled allegations that she killed her former husband. The frenetic drama was chronicled on Netflix's “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” one of the most popular docuseries of 2020.
The feud eventually escalated to Exotic attempting to hire a hitman to murder her, which landed him behind bars almost exactly a year ago. Exotic, whose legal name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was also convicted of killing five tigers, falsifying wildlife records, and violating the Endangered Species Act, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Oklahoma.
The mulleted former big cat breeder has since been trying to get pardoned by Trump, who is reportedly considering granting clemency to upwards of 100 people during his last hours in office, according to USA Today. Exotic’s legal team expects he will be one of them.
“We are on standby right now waiting for it to happen,” Eric Love told Oxygen.com on Tuesday. Love heads up Team Tiger, a collection of lawyers and private investigators working on Exotic's behalf.
“We are waiting on the call from the White House,” he exclaimed. “I am two hands in, and that expression means I’m all in and we feel 100 percent that we are going to get the pardon today.”
The Dodge limo-pickup is parked outside the legal office of a Team Tiger member in Fort Worth, Texas on stand by. Hair, makeup, wardrobe and at least one mental health expert are also at the ready.
“First thing he wants to do is get his hair done,” Love told Oxygen.com. “When you get out of prison, you look a little disheveled so we want to make sure he looks befitting of what he wants to look like. He wants that hair platinum.”
If a pardon does come through, Love theorizes that they will go get McDonald’s, Whataburger or Taco Casa.
“Get some fast food in him immediately,” Love said.
What if Exotic doesn’t get pardoned?
“I don’t even entertain that question,” Love told Oxygen.com, adding that Team Tiger is prepared to appeal in the event that a pardon does not occur. “We are with Joe until the end and we feel the end will be today.”
Baskin has weighed in, telling Oxygen.com that she doesn’t feel such a pardon would do any good.
“There is no benefit, other than a feeble attempt to deflect attention, for anyone to pardon someone who walked up to five tigers and shot them in the head in order to clear cage space for the circus, who was going to pay him to board their tigers during the off season,” she said. "Tigers are the world's favorite animal and Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado Passage is right where he belongs.”
Exotic had submitted a pardon application on Sept. 8, only to be rejected over email by the Office of the Pardon Attorney two days later. Days later, Exotic’s counsel requested that they forward the pardon request to Trump, “to allow him to decide whether to follow the recommendation or to use his plenary power to issue a pardon.” Late last year, Exotic’s legal team announced they were suing the Department of Justice, claiming that the pardon request didn’t make it directly into Trump’s hands.
Donald Trump Jr. had jokingly claimed during a SiriusXM’s “Jim Norton and Sam Roberts” radio show interview in April that he would lobby his dad to pardon Exotic. The president himself then mused during a White House coronavirus briefing that he'd "take a look” at the case.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.