Carole Baskin is breathing a sigh of relief after former President Trump failed to pardon her chief “Tiger King” rival Joe Exotic.
The big cat enthusiast spoke to Fox News on Wednesday, just hours after Trump issued 73 pardons and 70 sentence commutations with the exception of Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage.
“I’m taking a deep breath because I feel such a sense of relief,” Baskin told Fox News. “From the very time that he was sentenced I have worried about there being a presidential pardon that could undo all of the hard work that went into bringing this person to justice. When today at noon a new president was sworn in, I felt like I was finally safe from that threat.”
In April 2019, Exotic was convicted and served a 22-year prison sentence for his role in a murder-for-hire plot that targeted Baskin. He was also sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records, yet has maintained his innocence.
CAROLE BASKIN WORKING ON NEW DOCUMENTARY FOCUSING ON BIG CAT CONSERVATION
The story was featured on the Netflix documentary miniseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem & Madness,” which went viral shortly after its March 2020 release on the streamer.
Baskin said it’s mainly Exotic’s past abuse of “poor cubs and their mothers and all of the illegal trafficking” of animals that he belongs in prison.
“He absolutely belongs behind bars,” Baskin continued.
Baskin added that Exotic was fortunate he didn’t get more than 22 years. She claims he could have been handed an 80-year sentence but believes the judge was trying to be “as fair as he possibly could and not overreacting to the fact that [Exotic] was both trying to kill me and harming these animals.”
Private investigator Eric Love, who is part of Exotic’s legal team, said Tuesday evening he was confident the “Tiger King” star would be receiving a pardon before Trump’s term ended Wednesday.
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“We will be standing by waiting for President Trump’s confirmation of the Tiger King Joe Exotic,” Love said from inside a limousine waiting to pick Exotic up from a Texas prison if he was pardoned and released, KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City reported.
While the possibility of Trump pardoning the eccentric former zoo owner is no longer on the table, Baskin insisted there are “absolutely” ways Exotic could help himself behind bars. Instead of seeking a pardon, she said his energy could be used to follow in the example of Mario Tabreau, a convicted drug trafficker whose 100-year sentence was significantly reduced.
“[Tabreau] got his sentence reduced to 12 years by turning state’s evidence over. I think Joe could do the same thing. If he’s really had a change of heart — he says that after being in a cage he doesn’t think wild animals belong in cages — well, he knows all of the breeders and dealers and exploiters in this industry. He could provide state’s evidence and really reduce his sentence,” Baskin said. “I’d be fine with that!”
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Online prison records viewed by Fox News confirm Exotic, who is 57, is expected to be released in July 2037.
A rep for Exotic did not immediately return Fox News’ request for comment about Trump’s failure to pardon him Wednesday.
Included in Trump’s pardons were former White House adviser Steve Bannon, rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, as well as Death Row Records co-founder Michael “Harry O” Harris.