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‘Be my hero please’: ‘Tiger King’ star Joe Exotic asks Trump for a pardon

Joe Exotic in 'Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,' production stills on Netflix. (Courtesy of NETFLIX/TNS)

2020 just keeps outdoing itself.

On top of the COVID-19 pandemic, subsequent financial crisis and record-breaking wildfires, Joe Exotic is now asking President Trump for a pardon.

CBS News obtained his full pardon application and reported on it Wednesday morning.

“If I have ever looked up to anyone it would be you,” the convicted felon and “Tiger King” star wrote in a letter addressed to Trump. “Not because I need you to save my life but because you stand for what you beleive (sic) no matter what anyone thinks.”

The 257-page application includes a handwritten letter appealing to Trump’s ego and playing on the president’s own checkered history with federal investigators.

Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, catapulted to fame in the Netflix true-crime miniseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” in March as the operator of an exotic animal park in Wynnewood, Okla.

The plot thickened: Back in January, before the series even came out, Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot that targeted rival animal sanctuary owner Carole Baskin, as well as for violating federal wildlife laws. (Meanwhile, Baskin is set to compete on “Dancing With the Stars” next week.)

In mid-March, Maldonado-Passage filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted him (among others). Maldonado-Passage is seeking almost $94 million in damages.

His letter to Trump draws on their shared distrust of the Department of Justice.

“I see what they do to you and can’t believe it,” Maldonado-Passage wrote. “But when I saw 2 asst. U.S. attorneys, 2 FBI agents and 1 federal wildlife agent set (sic) in court and know their wittnesses (sic) were lying under oath and even helped them I was ashamed of our country.”

In April, New York Post reporter Steven Nelson and Donald Trump Jr. sparked questions over whether Trump would consider pardoning Maldonado-Passage.

“The man who’s the star of this is a former zoo owner who’s serving a 22-year prison sentence,” Nelson told Trump of “Tiger King” at a press conference. “He’s asking you for a pardon, saying he was unfairly convicted. Your son yesterday jokingly said that he was going to advocate for it. I was wondering if you’ve seen the show and if you have any thoughts on pardoning Joe Exotic.”

While Donald Trump Jr. thought “this is hilarious” at the time, Maldonado-Passage took it … a bit more seriously.

“I’m asking you to listen to your own son Donald Jr. and make this right and grant me a miricle (sic),” he wrote.

Back in March (when the world didn’t feel quite this crazy), “Tiger King” codirector Rebecca Chaiklin told The Times that Maldonado-Passage knows how to work a room — or, perhaps, a president.

“He is in a cage and of course he’s gonna say that he now recognizes what he did to these animals,” Chaiklin said. “With Joe, we have empathy for him, but at the same time, he’s someone who really knows what to say at the right moment.”

Maldonado-Passage asked the president to “let me put this behind me.”

“Most of all so I can return to helping sick children and the homeless, allow me to make you proud, to make America proud, to make the world proud,” he wrote. “Be my hero please.”


© 2020 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.