In a nation teeming with eccentrics, where oddballs, mavericks, and outliers carve their unique paths, America has its fair share of colorful and sometimes polarizing characters.
From Elon Musk’s daring ventures to Lady Gaga’s unconventional artistry, these figures have consistently defied the norms and expectations of mainstream society.
But even among this collection of peculiar personalities, one name stands out: Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, better known worldwide as Joe Exotic, the ‘Tiger King.’
From his days as a police chief in Eastvale, Texas, to his unexpected leap into exotic animal park ownership, magic tricks, and career as a country music artist, Joe Exotic’s journey defies categorization.
His journey has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, filled with big cats, politics, conspiracies, and a cast of colorful characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster.
It’s a story so captivating that Netflix launched a docuseries to capture its jaw-dropping essence, aptly titled ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.’
Yet, beneath the glitz and animal print, there’s more to Joe Exotic than meets the eye – a world of intrigue and scandal, including a shocking murder-for-hire plot that landed him in prison.
And while his larger-than-life persona continues to trend and captivate the masses, one burning question lingers: Is Joe Exotic still in jail?
This article explores the life and times of Joe Exotic, the Tiger King, uncovering the twists and turns behind the exotic facade, including his unexpected political aspirations and the ongoing saga of his fate.
Do you want to know which prison Joe Exotic or anyone else is in? With LookUpInmate.org, you can access inmate records from over 7,000 federal, state, local, military, and immigrant detention prisons.
Who Is the ‘Tiger King’?
Before he assumed the mantle of the ‘Tiger King,’ before Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, rose to fame through the Netflix series ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness,’ and before owning an exotic animal farm, he had a reasonably run-of-the-mill life.
He was born on a humble farm in rural Kansas to a household that to him was unaffectionate. It’s this farmland life that nurtured Joe’s love of animals, prompting him to participate in Future Farmers of America (FFA).
The FFA is an educational organization that prepares the youth population for careers in agriculture.
After graduating from high school in 1982, Joe enlisted in the force and, at age 19, was promoted to chief of police in a small department in Eastvale, Texas, consisting of a few other officers.
However, it was Joe’s childhood passion for exotic animals that would push him to work at a pet store in Florida, buy a pet store in Arlington, Texas, with his first husband Brian Rhyne, and later open the Garold Wayne (G.W.) Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Oklahoma City.
Joe’s fame quickly skyrocketed as he embarked on tours across the country featuring his menagerie of big cats and magic, captivating audiences with his unique charm and eccentric wardrobe. During this time, he would don the moniker “Joe Exotic,” and it would stick.
Unfortunately, it’s Joe’s rise to stardom that attracted scrutiny from federal regulators and animal rights activists. His most prominent critic, however, is Carole Baskins, the owner of Big Cat Rescue and known for reporting private zoos and sanctuaries for animal abuse.
Joe’s feud with Baskins involved relentless harassment, death threats, and a bizarre incident with a mailbox full of venomous snakes.
This rivalry climaxed when the Tiger King star attempted to hire a hitman to kill Baskins.
Where Is Joe Exotic Now?
Like a plot twist from a movie, fitting the enigmatic life of Joe Exotic, the man he hired to commit murder was an undercover FBI agent. Joe was apprehended in 2018 and later convicted of attempted murder-for-hire and violating protected exotic animal regulations.
However, this story gets even more complex when you hear that Joe’s alleged hitman scheme involved hiring two men, in two separate instances, to kill his rival, Carole Baskin.
The first attempt involved paying $3,000 to Allen Glover, a former employee of the Tiger King star. The job was to travel from Oklahoma to Florida and assassinate Carole.
The second instance occurred in December 2017 and involved more money- $10,000. Unfortunately for Joe, the man he thought was a hired gun was an undercover FBI agent.
As of November 2023, Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage is serving 22 years in federal prison. However, this sentence was reduced by a federal judge to 21 years in January 2022.
But in true ‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic fashion, nothing about his prison life has been mundane. For one, he and his fifth husband, Dillon Passage, divorced after only four years of marriage.
He also announced his bid for the 2024 presidential elections as a Libertarian, promoting platforms like ‘Live how you want’ and advocating for freedom from the left and right’s control.
Recently, Joe Exotic teased former President Donald Trump on Twitter regarding the grand jury’s investigation of the latter’s actions related to the 2020 elections and the classified documents scandal.
Joe Exotic’s First Interview Since Resentencing in Murder-for-Hire Plot
As mentioned, Joe Exotic was initially punished with a 22-year sentence in federal prison. But in a surprising turn, the appeals court reduced his prison term by one year, giving his legal team a small victory in their ongoing battle for the former zookeeper’s release.
A month following the resentencing, Joe Exotic shed light on his life behind bars and his determination to seek justice and prove his innocence.
One of the things he expressed during his first post-resentence interview was his disbelief over the alleged murder-for-hire scheme. Joe emphasized that a $3,000 payment was inadequate for such an endeavor.
Joe also denied the claims of treating his animals poorly. One of the charges against the Tiger King is violating the Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act for killing and selling his tigers. These two American legislations prohibit the trafficking and maltreatment of at-risk animals.
During the interview, the eccentric also announced his plan to author a tell-all memoir, which was released in November 2021. Unfortunately, Joe was dissatisfied with the publication and felt exploited.
Joe Exotic Receives a Reduction of One Year From His 22-Year Prison Sentence
In 2021, with tears in his eyes, Joe Exotic implored the federal judge not to condemn him to life behind bars, citing leniency as he confronts a battle with early-stage prostate cancer.
His legal team hoped that Joe’s physical condition and heightened vulnerability to COVID-19 should entitle their client to appropriate medical care and a less severe punishment.
Sadly, Joe’s and his defense team’s plea was answered with only a one-year reduction in his prison sentence. This decision was made after the revelation that Joe had received disciplinary action for possessing contraband – a cell phone and headphones.
Joe Exotic’s attorneys remained steadfast, pledging to appeal the resentencing and petition for a new trial. They presented evidence of excessive government involvement in the unique case.
Present during the proceedings were Carole Baskin and her husband, Howard Baskin. In an interview, the former disclosed that, even while Joe Exotic was imprisoned, she continued to receive distressing and menacing messages.
She asserted that the Tiger King star’s newfound popularity, thanks to the widely recognized Netflix docuseries, has garnered him a larger group of supporters, potentially intensifying the threat she faces.
According to the Associated Press, the former zookeeper’s supporters also attended the resentencing hearing. Several advocates wore animal-print masks and shirts bearing the slogan “Free Joe Exotic,” adding some truth to Carole’s claims.
Joe Exotic’s Confession About How ‘Tiger King’ Has Negatively Affected His Life
While the Netflix series ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Maness’ made Joe Exotic a household name, he admits that the fame it brought him was a double-edged sword.
In a 2023 interview with TMZ (Thirty-Mile Zone), Joe, who is 60 as of November 2023, expressed regret about his involvement in the docuseries that pushed his persona as the Tiger King into the limelight.
While the feature showcased his life and work in his Wynnewood zoo, it focused on the vulgar and controversial aspect of his character. Joe claims that the show, which initially started as a small tiger show, is a conspiracy to frame him for the attempted murder of Carole Baskin.
He even cites Netflix and the documentary’s director, Eric Goode, as the masterminds behind the plot. Moreover, he says that he has evidence that everything was all a setup to paint him negatively.
Despite being a trending topic, Joe Exotic feels that the real challenges of life in federal prison, his battle with cancer, and the impact of the pandemic, have been mainly overlooked.
Joe Exotic’s 2024 Presidential Aspirations Despite Being in Prison
One of the most peculiar aspects of Joe Exotic’s life is his political ambition. While in a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, he announced his intention to challenge Joe Biden in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary.
His campaign promises include advocating for closing down the IRS (Internal Revenue System) and ending absolute immunity for federal agents. However, his primary objective is to reform the corrupt criminal justice and prison systems.
This focus on the last one stems from his imprisonment, which he declares was the result of corruption within the Department of Justice, involving three felons who were coerced into providing false testimony.
While Joe didn’t name these three individuals, he likely referred to Allen Glover, James Garretson, and Carole Baskin, two former business partners and a rival. Notably, Joe directs his criticism at Carole, referencing her alleged and ironic involvement in the deaths of 226 big cats.
Despite his ongoing incarceration and the many legal challenges he faces, Joe Exotic’s determination to enter the 2024 presidential race highlights the complex and enduring nature of his story.
Interestingly, the Tiger King also ran as an independent candidate in the 2016 presidential election, where he received less than 1,000 votes, and as a Libertarian in the 2018 Oklahoma governor race, getting around 600 votes.
Joe Exotic’s Complaints About Conditions in Atlanta Penitentiary
Due to his worsening health, Joe Exotic has been transferred to several facilities since his conviction.
However, Joe revealed in an Instagram post that his stay in the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta was akin to hell. He stated that the animals calling the Atlanta Zoo home had better living conditions than the prisoners.
This social media rant brought more scrutiny to the Atlanta correctional facility, which was, at that time, under a 10-month investigation for the same reasons.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ findings found evidence of issues related to public safety, inmate and staff wellbeing, and a lack of oversight leading to numerous loss of life.
Additionally, former prison employees testified about various problems at the Atlanta penitentiary, from maintenance issues and staff misconduct to challenges with controlling contraband, including drugs, weapons, and cell phones.
While Senator Jon Ossoff, who led the inquiry, acknowledged some positive changes and new leadership at the prison, he stressed that more work is necessary to address the issues and ensure the security and safety of the facility and its residents.
Joe Exotic’s complaints about the conditions in the Atlanta Penitentiary add another layer of complexity to his ongoing legal and personal challenges. It also raises questions about the state of the federal prison system.
If you’ve been captivated by the Tiger King’s journey and the more significant issues surrounding his case, it’s crucial to take the opportunity to advocate for change.
Gain insight into the experiences of incarcerated individuals and become better informed about the justice system by visiting LookUpInmate.org, a valuable resource providing access to inmate records from over 7,000 U.S. correctional institutions.
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