Tiger King's Joe Exotic Speaks Out After Not Receiving Pardon from Donald Trump
Joe Exotic is currently serving the first year of a 22-year prison sentence for plotting to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin, among other charges
The 57-year-old, who became notorious for his murder-for-hire plot and for his outrageous attention-seeking behavior, took aim at the former president in a scathing tweet on Wednesday, writing, "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," the convicted felon, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, continued, referencing a meme Donald Trump Jr. had shared online last year, in which the then-president's face was superimposed onto Maldonado-Passage's mugshot.
"Boy were we all stupid to believe he actually stood for Equal Justice? His corrupt friends all come first," Maldonado-Passage tweeted.
In the wake of Trump's pardons, his target Baskin — who also appeared in the 2020 Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness — said that she was relieved Maldonado-Passage had not been granted clemency.
"I'm taking a deep breath because I feel such a sense of relief," she told Fox News on Wednesday. "From the very time that he was sentenced I have worried about there being a presidential pardon that could undo all of the hard work that went into bringing this person to justice. When today at noon a new president was sworn in, I felt like I was finally safe from that threat."
The disgraced zookeeper began petitioning to have Trump pardon him last March, releasing a video proclaiming his innocence and having his legal team repaint a bus with the words: "President Trump, Please Pardon Joe Exotic."
He later reportedly wrote a lengthy letter to Trump in which he claimed that he has been sexually abused in prison.
After his application for pardon was rejected, Maldonado-Passage filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice in December, accusing Acting Pardon Attorney Rosalind Sargent-Burns of not fulfilling her administrative duty by passing along a recommendation.
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At the time, a DOJ spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit but pointed to the department's guidelines, which "require a petitioner to wait a period of at least five years after conviction or release from confinement (whichever is later) before filing a pardon application."
According to the lawsuit, reviewed by PEOPLE, Maldonado-Passage had sought a waiver from the requirement that he be out of prison before asking for the Office of the Pardon Attorney to weigh in on his case.
However, according to Maldonado-Passage's lawyer, Sargent-Burns said on Sept. 10 that his request for waiver was being denied.
A judge in the case later ruled that "a review of the public record appears to reveal that Exotic's pardon application has now been accepted and is currently pending on the Department of Justice's website," though noted that Maldonado-Passage's claim was "moot" unless he can show "a case or controversy still exists."
On Tuesday night, during the final hours of his presidency, Trump issued 143 pardons or sentence commutations — none of which was given to Maldonado-Passage.
High-profile figures who received pardons included rappers Kodak Black and Lil Wayne, former top strategist Steve Bannon, and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.