NORMAN, Okla. — On his final day in office, President Donald Trump did not pardon Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage — better known as Joe Exotic, or “The Tiger King.” Passage, who operated an animal park in Wynnewood, south of Oklahoma City, was convicted of murder for hire and animal abuse in 2018.
Trump on Tuesday pardoned more than 140 people, including Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist, as well as rap artists and others.
Passage's legal team had worked for months to get him a presidential pardon.
“This was not a quick process,” said Eric Love, a lawyer for Passage. “It has taken us about a good 10 months for me and the Team Tiger. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into this, thousands and thousands of hours for a team of about 30 people in total working.”
Passage was convicted of hiring a hitman to kill his rival and the owner of Big Cat Rescue, Carole Baskin, who was an outspoken critic of Passage and his treatment of his big cats. The hit man Passage hired to kill Baskin was an undercover FBI agent.
Passage also was convicted of violating the Endangered Species Act by killing five tigers and selling tigers across state lines.
In all, Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Passage came to national attention after Netflix released a documentary last year about him and his zoo, The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. A new owner closed the animal park in 2020.
Love said he is disappointed in Trump’s failure to pardon Passage. He said it was an outcome that Passage’s legal team never even considered, and it was a conversation he never wanted to entertain.
“When we initially signed on with Joe, I told him I would never leave his side,” Love said. “Even through first appeals and the (entire) appeals process we (believed) we could get the pardon.”