‘Tiger King’ Pardon: Joe Exotic’s Legal Team Had Limo Ready at Prison

Tiger King star and convicted felon Joseph Maldanado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, was not quiet about his plans to seek a pardon from former President Donald Trump. The former zookeeper’s legal team reportedly sunk north of $14,000 into getting the endeavor.

The team was confident leading up to Trump’s final days in office, but it turned out to be misplaced. While Trump issued over 100 pardons on his final day in office, Maldanado-Passage was not among them. Adding insult to injury was one grand gesture by the legal team that has now left them with egg on their face.

Joe Exotic remains imprisoned for animal abuse and attempted murder for hire

Joe Exotic, the "Tiger King"
Joe Exotic, the “Tiger King” | Netflix

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Maldanado-Passage’s legal team said on Wednesday, Jan. 20, that they were “100% confident” that Trump would issue a pardon for their client. They were so confident that they had a limousine ready to pick him up from prison, as was reported by outlets like Vice.

As befits the particular style of the Tiger King star, it wasn’t just any limo. According to attorney Eric Love, it was a “Monster Ram Truck Limo,” complete with disco lights and an “open rear deck.” Sounds expensive. Shame they didn’t get to use.

“We are 100% confident that it’s going to fall today,” Love told Vice on Jan. 19. “We are at the law office with the limousine. We are all set up and ready to go.”

Maldanado-Passage is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence, according to The Washington Post. In 2019, he was convicted on 17 federal charges of animal abuse stemming from his big cat sanctuary, and two counts of attempted murder for hire. These latter charges stemmed from his attempts to put a hit on Carole Baskin, a big cat rescue advocate and staunch critic of Maldanado-Passage, whom he viewed as something like an arch-nemesis.

Love also said that a hair and makeup team would be on-hand to help Maldanado-Passage keep up appearences.

“Joe wants to look the same way coming out that he did going in,” Love said. “I’m going to ask them to have the McRibs ready to go.”

His story reached the mainstream thanks to Netflix’s docuseries

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Maldanado-Passage’s bizarre story was brought to mainstream attention when Netflix released the docuseries, Tiger King. Released in March 2020 in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the series soared in popularity in part thanks to lockdowns creating a massive captive audience.

As Variety reported, Tiger King brought in over 34 million viewers in its first 10 days of release. This would be impressive for any show on the platform but was particularly so for documentary shows, which tend to draw in smaller numbers.

Tiger King was eventually nominated for six Primetime Emmy Awards, including for Best Documentary Series and Best Directing in a Documentary Series. While criticized by many for its focus on gossip and big personalities, the series has nonetheless been praised for increasing the public awareness of the big cat trade.