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An apparent spokesperson for "Tiger King" star Joe Exotic claimed he was "too innocent and too GAY" to get a last-minute pardon from former President Donald Trump before he left office on Wednesday.
Exotic's legal team was so confident that the 57-year-old would be pardoned on Tuesday that they hired a pickup truck stretch limo and had a beauty and self-care team standing by to whisk him out of prison in style. However, Trump departed office with the former big cat breeder still behind bars.
Private investigator Eric Love told Oxygen.com on Tuesday that the team felt “100 percent that we are going to get the pardon today.”
Love heads up Team Tiger, a collection of lawyers and private investigators working on Exotic's behalf. He spoke from the limo, parked outside the office of some of Exotic’s attorneys as they all waited for news.
“We are waiting on the call from the White House,” he told Oxygen.com.
But that call never came.
Trump did grant clemency to 143 people during his final hours, including former top White House aide Steve Bannon and musical artists Lil Wayne and Kodak Black. Interestingly, Trump did pardon an exotic animal person: Robert Bowker, who was caught illegally transporting 22 snakes in Florida nearly three decades ago. Bowker was sentenced to probation and has spent much of his life since his arrest dedicating resources to animal conservation efforts.
Exotic — whose legal name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage — didn't make the list.
He 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 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.
When asked on Tuesday how Team Tiger would feel if the pardon wasn’t granted, Love said, “I don’t even entertain that question.”
He did say that Team Tiger would be prepared to appeal.
Early Wednesday morning, Love told Oxygen.com that he was en route to support Exotic’s lawyers as they prepare to file a first appeal with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
He described the previous 24 hours as being “rough.”
In a statement put out Wednesday afternoon, Team Tiger said that "140 million Joe Exotic fans had a hard time getting out of bed this morning. We are as disappointed that The President did not sign Joe’s Pardon, as we were confident yesterday that he would. It is only because of you 140 million fans that Joe’s Pardon was even a possibility. Since his trial, the evidence has made it clear that Joe is not guilty but, rather, he is a victim of the persons he trusted most. "
Team Tiger spent two hours on the phone with Exotic on Wednesday morning as they continued to work on his appeal, the statement went on to say.
A user that touts itself as the official account for Exotic later tweeted, “I was too innocent and too GAY to deserve a Pardon from Trump. 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.”
Baskin told Oxygen.com on Wednesday that she is thankful that Exotic was not granted a pardon.
"If Joe really had a change of heart, he could do what Mario Tabraue did to lessen his 100 year drug trafficking conviction to 12 years by turning state's evidence against the other animal exploiters," she wrote over email.
Tabraue, who was also featured in "Tiger King," is both the rumored inspiration for "Scarface" Tony Montana and a big cat lover who runs the Zoological Wildlife Foundation. He previously told Oxygen.com that he remains dedicated to the care and well being of animals.
Baskin pointed to an article from the British newspaper The Independent on her Facebook on Wednesday morning, noting that one "Tiger King" fan was quoted as saying, "Looks like Trump is on team Baskin after all."
Exotic had submitted a pardon application on Sept. 8, only to be quickly rejected over email by the Office of the Pardon Attorney. 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.
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