The Tiger King star, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was convicted of hiring someone to murder his big cat rival Carol Baskin, and in January sentenced to 22 years in prison. Baskin now has control of his zoo, after a court ruling at the beginning of this month.
Since then he and his advisors and friends have been trying to find ways to convince Trump to pardon him.
Friends of the Tiger King star are reported to have racked up a $10,000 bill at Trump’s hotel
Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, has asked Donald Trump for a pardon
The Trump hotel, in Washington DC, was where Maldonado-Passage’s team spent wildly
They want the president, seen here on Tuesday, to pardon Maldonado-Passage
They have made regular appearances on Fox News to try and get his attention, and won over Florida congressman Matt Gaetz – who has the ear of the president.
‘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,’ said Gaetz on Fox News, on Tuesday.
Gaetz said it was a pre-emptive step to ‘effectively and robustly’ counter the ‘blood lust’ of the ‘radical left’.
Maldonado-Passage’s team are lobbying for a pardon for the reality TV star
On Wednesday Trump announced that he was indeed pardoning Michael Flynn, his short-lived National Security Adviser, who was convicted of lying to the FBI.
Earlier this year, Trump said he would consider issuing a pardon for Maldonado-Passage, after his son Donald Trump Jr brought the case to him.
‘I’ll take a look,’ he told reporters in April.
In June, when Trump Jr interviewed his father for a campaign video, the president said he had seen ‘a couple of episodes’ of the true crime miniseries.
‘He’s quite a character,’ Trump said of Maldonado-Passage. ‘That’s a strange guy and a lot of strange people around him.’
Maldonado-Passage’s supporters also have posted a series of letters online that he’s written to the White House seeking a pardon.
In August, when Trump promised a ‘surprise’ pardon, many of the reality TV star’s supporters hoped it would be him.
Instead, on August 18 Trump posthumously pardoned the woman’s suffragist Susan B. Anthony.
There are at least 13,700 people who have formally applied to the Justice Department for pardons that are listed as ‘pending.’
Trump has granted 28 pardons, which wipe out convictions, and 16 commutations, which reduce prison sentences – far fewer than any other recent president.
The combined total is the lowest so far for any president since at least William McKinley, who took office in 1897, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.
Barack Obama issued 212 pardons and 1,715 commutations during his eight years in office.
Most of Obama’s pardons and commutations were given to low-profile convicts who were facing long prison terms for nonviolent offenses.
Trump, however, has preferred pardoning his friends and supporters – among them Roger Stone and conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza.
He also pardoned Alice Marie Johnson, sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent drug offense, at the urging of Kim Kardashian-West.
Maldonado-Passage, a 57-year-old zoo owner, wrote to Trump in September and begged him: ‘Be my hero, please.’
Joe Exotic wrote a two-page handwritten letter to Donald Trump
In the letter, the reality TV star spoke of his admiration for the president
He insists that he was wrongly convicted on the testimony of people who the government knew were lying.
‘I grew up having faith in our system until I became trapped in it,’ he writes.
Maldonado-Passage tells the president that he voted for him, and that he looks up to him.
‘If I have ever looked up to anyone it would be you,’ he writes.
‘Not because I need you to save my life but because you stand for what YOU believe no matter what anyone thinks.’
He writes that everything he works for was ‘stolen by criminals’, and says he is ‘begging you to listen to the millions who see the truth’.
Maldonado-Passage was convicted of murder-for-hire for his rivalry with Carol Baskin
The threats against Baskin, who runs a big cat sanctuary, were a joke, the defense claims
Maldonado-Passage wrote a separate letter to the president’s son, who in April said he felt the 22-year-sentence was ‘aggressive’.
‘I watched the show but I don’t know exactly what he was guilty of or wasn’t,’ Trump Jr said.
‘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.”
Maldonado-Passage wrote a letter to Trump Jr on Facebook in June, and in his new letter writes: ‘Hey, it’s me again, Joe Exotic, I hate to bother you again but I truly have faith in you.’
The zoo owner claims that he is the victim of ‘fake news’, writing that he has been subjected to the whims of ‘bad agents, bad cops and bad prosecutors’.
He tells Trump Jr, a passionate hunter and outdoorsman, that he has been wrongly judged by over-zealous animal welfare authorities.
And he tells him he has been sexually assaulted inside the Grady County jail in Oklahoma. He has since been transferred to a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
‘I have been sexually assaulted by jail staff, beat up and tied in a chair to the point the skin came off my arms,’ he wrote.
‘Please be my hero … my hands are damaged from the abuse in jail so I’m sorry for the soppy (sic) writing and spelling.’
The jail has denied that Maldonado-Passage was harmed.
Maldonado-Passage wrote a four-page handwritten letter to Donald Trump Jr
Trump Jr said in April that he felt Maldonado-Passage’s sentence was ‘aggressive’
Maldonado-Passage told Trump Jr that he had been sexually assaulted in prison
He ended his letter to the president’s son: ‘#TrumpJr2024’
Maldonado-Passage previously told
He ended his letter with the phrase: ‘#TrumpJr.2024.’
In his 257-page file, Maldonado-Passage says he fears he may die before his scheduled 2037 release owing to anemia and other immune deficiencies.
He insists that he never intended to kill his rival, Carol Baskin, and described his comments about plotting to murder her – as captured in the Netflix documentary – as ‘hyperbole’.
His lawyers claim the ‘threats’ were ‘simply another aspect of his showmanship … Joe’s jokes, at most, in bad taste, were merely jokes.’
He admitted killing the tigers, but said it was because they needed to be euthanized.
Maldonado-Passage also submitted character references including one from his husband Dillon Passage, and one from Kerri Walker, whose cousin worked at the zoo.
Walker makes an appeal to Trump, saying Maldonado-Passage was wrongly judged, in the way that Trump was with the ‘grab-’em-by-the-p***y’ tape.
His husband writes: ‘I see a sweet, big heart man, with good intentions, who took a few steps down a dark road, and he’s just waiting to be pulled out of it.’
Dillon Passage wrote: ‘I see a sweet, big heart man, with good intentions, who took a few steps down a dark road, and he’s just waiting to be pulled out of it’