- The gay zookeeper and Netflix star is currently serving 22 years in prison over a murder plot but believes Trump will pardon him.
Joe Exotic’s representatives splashed $10,000 at Donald Trump’s hotel in Washington DC as part of their bid to win a pardon for him.
That’s according to a report in the New York Times as the campaign to win the Tiger King star’s release goes on.
His team have also made regular appearances on Fox News to try to win the president’s attention before he leaves office.
And they have won the support of Florida Republican congressman Matt Gaetz – one of Trump’s allies.
Gaetz in turn went on Fox News to call for Trump to pardon not only Exotic but also Michael Flynn, the president’s former National Security Adviser who was convicted of lying to the FBI.
Gaetz said: ‘He should pardon Michael Flynn, he should pardon the Thanksgiving turkey, he should pardon everyone from himself to his administration officials to Joe Exotic if he has to.’
Trump’s record on pardons
Trump has now pardoned Flynn. But beyond that, he has issued relatively few pardons.
In total, he has granted 28 pardons – wiping out convictions – and 16 commutations, which reduce prison sentences.
By comparison former President Barack Obama issued 212 pardons and 1,715 pardons.
And there’s another difference. Obama focused on pardons and commutations for low-profile prisoners with long sentences for non-violent offenses.
By contrast, Trump has used his pardons primarily for friends and supporters.
However, there’s a long waiting list of convicts hoping he will provide reprieve before he leaves the White House.
At least 13,700 have formally applied to the Justice Department and could receive a presidential pardon.
Among them, Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, has kept the faith Trump will pardon him.
Exotic came to fame in the hit Netflix series Tiger King this year. But in January a court sentenced him to 22 years in prison over his plot to kill his rival Carol Baskin and for killing five tigers in his zoo.
Earlier this year he sent a handwritten letter to Trump appealing for clemency. In it, he tells the president he wants to go home to his husband and ‘return to helping sick children and the homeless’.
In September, he also submitted a 257 page report to the US Department of Justice asking Trump for a pardon.
It explained he wouldn’t leave prison until 2037. But it added that his poor health means he will more likely die in prison. And it concluded:
‘He humbly requests a pardon to correct the injustices he has experienced and to have the opportunity to return to provide meaningful contributions to his community.’
How Exotic’s story ended in the murder plot
Exotic, aged 57, became a household name when Tiger King dropped on Netflix just as many countries started coronavirus lockdowns.
The series follows ‘redneck homosexual’ Exotic and the fate of the roadside zoo he created.
However it’s not just the animals who add the drama. Joe has two husbands, and a vast range of queer, colorful, crazy and criminal friends and foes. To that mix you can add meth, guns and genital piercings.
But as GSN reported in 2018, Joe Exotic’s legal troubles date back long before he found fame.
Likewise, the Tiger King series also tracked the conflict between Exotic and Carole Baskin, the owner of Big Cat Rescue. She accuses him of animal abuse. In particular he says his breeding programs, conditions and allowing visitors to pet lion and tiger cubs are cruel.
In return, he accuses her of hypocrisy, undermining his income and of harassing him.
After a series of twists, it culminates with an attempted murder which has now landed Exotic with 22 years in jail.
But in his letter to Trump he said the threats he made against Baskin were merely jokes. Moreover, he admits killing the tigers but says they needed euthanasia.
Trump Jr becomes an ally
Meanwhile, he is also putting his faith in Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
Back in April, Trump Jr said he felt Exotic’s prison term was ‘aggressive’. However his assessment appears to be based on a cursory perusing of the show rather than a careful weighing of legal evidence.
At the time he commented: ‘I watched the show but I don’t know exactly what he was guilty of or wasn’t. It doesn’t seem like he was totally innocent of anything. But when they’re saying, “We’re putting this guy away for 30 years.” I’m saying, “That seems … sort of aggressive.”’
In a letter to Trump Jr on Facebook in June, Exotic tells the president’s son ‘I truly have faith in you’.
Exotic then goes on to claim he’s the victim of ‘fake news’ as well as ‘bad agents, bad cops and bad prosecutors’.