FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - "Tiger King" star Joe Exotic is suing the United States Justice Department over the Trump administration's rejection of his official pardon request, according to court documents obtained by CBS 11 News.
The legal team for the Netflix star — whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage — argues that the denial isn't valid since his request was not presented directly to President Trump.
In April 2019, Maldonado-Passage was found guilty of more than a dozen counts of animal cruelty and for trying to hire someone to kill big cat-rights activist Carole Baskin. He's currently serving a 22 year prison sentence in a Fort Worth prison for the murder-for-hire plot.
But his legal team, including private investigator Eric Love of Bedford, disputes the charges and the way the case was handled, hence the pardon request.
The suit names Acting Pardon Attorney Rosalind Sargent-Burns. It alleges that she never passed on a formal recommendation to the president — something the lawsuit alleges she was required to do as an adviser, due to the fact that Trump has the sole authority to issue pardons.
"Joe Exotic does not seek to influence the nature of the recommendation, but only to compel the Office of the Pardon Attorney to comply with its ministerial duties to provide notice and a recommendation to the President, and thus to allow the President to exercise his plenary power under the Constitution."
The complaint also names Donald Trump Jr. as a supporter.
"Many people have come out and publicly expressed their disagreement with Joe Exotic's conviction and subsequent sentence. Among those, are members of the President's own family. Donald Trump Junior has been an advocate for Joe Exotic to be Pardoned."
The true crime documentary "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness" was released on Netflix in March, at the height of national stay-at-home orders. Whether it was people cooped up at home, binging on Netflix, or Exotic's self-professed "gay, gun-toting cowboy with a mullet," lifestyle, the series was a hit. It catapulted the former Arlington pet store owner into the spotlight.
The series followed his life of as he operated the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma that had nearly 200 big cats.
The murder and mayhem portion of the show involved the 57-year-old's feud with Baskin, who owns the Florida sanctuary "Big Cat Rescue", and for years worked to get Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, also known as the G.W. Zoo, shut down. That volatile relationship came to a head in 2016 when Maldonado-Passage plotted to have Baskin killed.
During the course of the investigation, officials with the Department of Justice alleged Exotic also, "…falsified forms involving the sale of wildlife in interstate commerce, killed five tigers in October 2017 to make room for cage space for other big cats, and sold and offered to sell tiger cubs."
Maldonado-Passage is currently housed at the Federal Medical Center Fort Worth.
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