Joe Exotic has been trying to find a way to get out of prison for some time, and now his lawyers say they think he's "very, very close" to getting a presidential pardon from outgoing commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump. On Tuesday, one of Exotic's attorneys, Eric Love, spoke with ABC News about the status of the Tiger King subject's pardon, saying, "We are waiting on the pen to hit the paper. We think we are very, very close." Additionally, Exotic's legal team also confirmed to Pink News that they spent more than $14,000 at a Trump hotel, seemingly in the hopes of getting Trump's attention.
In September 2018, Exotic — whose real name is Joseph Maldano-Passage — was arrested and charged with two counts of hiring someone to murder fellow Tiger King subject Carole Baskin. He was also charged with eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act for killing five tigers and for selling tigers across state lines. The investigation against Exotic was quite extensive, eventually becoming a joint operation between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and the U.S. Marshals Service. In January 2019, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison. He has been held at FMC Fort Worth since March 2020.
While there is currently no official word on whether or not Trump intends to pardon Exotic, he has at least spoken publicly about the notion, in the past. In April, Trump was asked about the possibility, during a White House press conference. "I'll take a look," Trump replied, then adding: "I know nothing about it. He has 22 years, for what? What did he do?"
After the Tiger King docuseries became a huge success on Netflix, Exotic spoke out about his sudden notoriety. "You know it would be nice if I could actually see me being famous out there, but I've seen these same four walls for a year and a half now," he said. Exotic also expressed remorse for his actions, saying, "Go in a cage with your animals for a week. I mean, when I left the zoo and I sent my chimpanzees to the sanctuary in Florida and imagined what my chimpanzees went through for 18 years, I—I'm ashamed of myself."