Joe Exotic is pleading for a pardon from President Donald Trump, claiming that he was sexually assaulted while serving his 22-year sentence in a murder-for-hire plot that was at the center of Netflix's hit docuseries, Tiger King. The former private zoo owner, convicted of hiring a man to kill rival Carole Baskin in a failed murder plot, submitted a 257-page pardon plea to Trump, according to TMZ, detailing claims of being assaulted behind bars.
"I have been sexually assaulted by jail staff, beat up and tied in a chair to the point the skin came off my arms," Exotic claimed of his time incarcerated at first the Grady County jail in Chickasha, Oklahoma, then FMC Fort Worth, a medical facility in Texas, in April. TMZ's sources in the federal prison system told the outlet there was no such assault. Exotic's husband, Dillon Passage, said the former presidential candidate was in COVID-19 quarantine after cases broke out in prison, which Exotic referenced in saying he was afraid of dying in prison due to a number of health conditions.
"Please be my hero...My hands are damaged from the abuse in jail so I’m sorry for the soppy (sic) writing and spelling," Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, added. "Allow me to make you proud, to make America proud, to make the world proud. Be my hero please." Doubling down on his denial that he did not attempt to kill Baskin, Exotic appeared to endorse a Donald Trump Jr. run, adding, "#TrumpJr.2024."
A message from Passage was also included in the plea, with Exotic’s husband claiming he was saved from addiction by his relationship with the Netflix star. "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," he wrote. TMZ reports that Exotic's legal team intends to travel to Washington D.C. Wednesday to present the pardon application to Trump’s team in the White House.
Trump has already indicated he could be open to pardoning Exotic when asked about the possibility during a coronavirus briefing back in April. "I know nothing about it," Trump said at the time. "He has 22 years for what, what did he do?" When asked, "Do you think he didn’t do it? Are you on his side? Are you recommending a pardon?" Trump responded, "As a reporter, you’re not allowed to do that," before concluding, "I’ll take a look."