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.
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.”
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.