Joe Exotic kept an AR-15 he said was ‘For Carole’

Investigator testified "Joe would have nothing to lose to try and follow out his original plans and have her killed — or have one one of his cultish followers do it.”

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Joseph Maldonado-Passage
Federal prosecutors painted a picture of Joe Exotic as a mentally-unstable, vengeful man with nothing to lose during a court hearing Thursday.

A U.S. District Court magistrate ruled Maldonado will continue to be held without bond while awaiting trial for murder-for hire charges after hearing about two hours of testimony.

The prosecution showed a video of Joseph Maldonado-Passage shooting a blow-up doll with a handgun and making various threats against Florida wildlife refuge owner Carole Baskin.

“This is how sick and tired of this shit I am,” Maldonado-Passage says in the video.

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In another video titled “Oh Carole,” Maldonado-Passage fired a gun at a target that then burst into flames. He once posted an image on social media of Baskin’s head in a mason jar, quipping that it was his birthday present. In another internet posting, he said he planned to drive to Florida to commit “murder-suicide.”

Maldonado-Passage’s attorney Bill Earley said the videos were only for entertainment purposes and any threats were not meant to be taken seriously.

“These were skits,” Earley said. “They were made for TV and for shock value.”

Today Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic,” was arrested

Today Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic,” was arrested after being indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on two counts of “murder for hire” for seeking to hire someone to murder Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue. Maldonado had made threats online over a period of years including a video of him shooting in the head a blow up doll dressed to look like Carole and an image hanging her in effigy.“It is important to understand that this is not the isolated act of one crazy bad apple,” Baskin said. “A significant part of our mission has been to stop mistreatment and exploitation of big cats at roadside zoos, particularly those who rip tiger cubs from their mothers at birth to charge the public to pet and take photos with them. Because Big Cat Rescue has been a leader in working to stop what we view as abuse of big cats and been very effective in our work, I have received multiple death threats over the years, including at one point a number of snakes placed in my mailbox. According to the FBI, animal abuse is highly correlated with human-to-human violence.”Maldonado ran, in our view, one of the most notorious cub petting roadside zoos in the country in Wynnewood, OK. Years ago he also operated a traveling exhibit that would bring cubs to malls throughout the Midwest and Southwest. When Big Cat Rescue educated the malls about the miserable life this created for the cubs and the malls started cancelling Maldonado’s traveling exhibit, Maldonado retaliated by renaming his traveling show “Big Cat Rescue Entertainment” in order to confuse the public into thinking the show was operated by Big Cat Rescue. In 2011 Big Cat Rescue sued for violations of its intellectual property rights and in 2013 was granted a consent judgment for over $1 million. Litigation to collect on the judgment has been ongoing since then in Oklahoma.We are ENORMOUSLY grateful to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the FBI, the US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Oklahoma and the U.S. Marshall's Service for the many months of incredibly hard work that went into this investigation and arrest.

Posted by Big Cat Rescue on Friday, September 7, 2018

Maldonado-Passage is accused of offering two people money in exchange for killing Baskin, whom he had a long-running legal feud with. One of the would-be hit men was an undercover FBI agent.

“Ms. Baskin told me she has never been more scared for her life than she is now,” Matt Bryant, a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service testified on Thursday. “Joe would have nothing to lose to try and follow out his original plans and have her killed — or have one one of his cultish followers do it.”

Maldonado-Passage is a well-known gun enthusiast. He sold most of his firearms this summer before moving to Florida, but kept a white AR-15 he said was “for Carole,” Bryant testified during the hearing.

Bryant said he had been investigating Joe since 2016 for his activities transporting and selling protected species when he discovered Maldonado-Passage’s attempts to hire a Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park employee to kill Baskin.

A handful of Maldonado-Passage’s supporters attended the hearing. One woman who said she met Maldonado-Passage last year at a campaign appearance when he was running for governor testified that she would let Maldonado-Passage stay at her house while awaiting trial. Supporter Lisa Sparks testified about free community dinners and clothing drives she said Maldonado-Passage hosted at his former zoo, Greater Wynnewood Animal Park.

“He does a lot for the community,” Sparks said.

She broke down crying in the courtroom after the magistrate denied Maldonado-Passage bond.

Related reading

Cat fight: Joe Exotic says he was framed

Joe Exotic pleads not guilty to murder-for hire charges

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Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey grew up in Idaho. Oklahoma is her adopted home. Bailey has covered issues ranging from Oklahoma's strained child welfare system to the slow decline of Oklahoma's rural hospitals. She has walked all the way across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to south via Western Avenue and once via the old U.S. Route 66. Her hobbies are baking and crashing meetings she isn't invited to attend. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The University of Oklahoma. Email her at brianna@readfrontier.com
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