‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic transferred to federal medical center following cancer diagnosis

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Joseph Maldonado-Passage

BUTNER, N.C. (KFOR) – Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, has been transferred to a federal medical center in order to receive prostate cancer treatment.

Earlier this month, Maldonado announced his ‘aggressive cancer’ diagnosis via Twitter.

According to his attorney, Joe was transferred from the Ft. Worth Federal Medical Center to the Butner Federal Medical Center sometime overnight earlier this week.

“He is one of the most passionate, full of life, clients I have ever had the pleasure of representing. Joe informed me that his fears were true. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer,” said attorney John M. Phillips. “As noted in Joe’s recent statements, he has been undergoing medical treatment and tests for a host of issues. The PSA test is a blood test used primarily to screen for prostate cancer. It was high months ago. He finally obtained biopsies. They revealed two cancerous areas. He is undergoing further testing.”

The Butner correctional complex, which includes four prisons and a medical center, is located in North Carolina.

“He needs cancer treatment, but we hoped the Marshal’s Service and Bureau of Prisons would choose to send him to Oklahoma, so he can prepare for his re-sentencing and upcoming Motions to overturn his conviction,” said Phillips.

In 2018, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as “Joe Exotic” and former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of murder-for-hire.

Prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage gave a person $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to Florida to carry out the murder of big cat activist Carole Baskin and “allegedly agreed to pay thousands more after the deed,” said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.

Joseph Maldonado-Passage

A grand jury also indicted Maldonado-Passage on an additional 19 counts of wildlife charges, including the violation of the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act.

Prosecutors say he shot and killed five tigers in October 2017 to make room in cages for other big cats, and sold tiger cubs to raise money.

He was also accused of falsifying records relating to the tigers, lions and a baby lemur which were purportedly being donated or transported for exhibition, but were actually sold.

Officials offered evidence in the form of recordings of Maldonado-Passage negotiating the hiring of an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a hitman. When talking about payment, Maldonado-Passage reportedly said, “I’ll just sell a bunch of tigers.”

The intended target of the hit was Carole Baskin, a chief critic of Maldonado-Passage. Baskin successfully sued Maldonado-Passage for trademark infringement in 2011, and was outspoken about the treatment of animals at the park.

ILE - In this July 20, 2017 file photo, Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa, Fla. Baskin was married to Jack “Don” Lewis, whose 1997 disappearance remains unsolved and is the subject of a new Netflix series “Tiger King.” (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)
FILE – In this July 20, 2017 file photo, Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa, Fla. Baskin was married to Jack “Don” Lewis, whose 1997 disappearance remains unsolved and is the subject of a new Netflix series “Tiger King.” (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

The defense claimed their client was framed. They say he was all talk and had no intention of wanting Baskin dead.

The former Greater Wynnewood Animal Park owner was found guilty on all counts in 2019.

He was ultimately sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison for all of the convictions. Officials say he was sentenced to nine years in prison for each of the murder-for-hire convictions, and four years for the wildlife violations.

In July, a federal court found that the trial court wrongly treated Maldonado- Passage’s two convictions separately in calculating his prison term. Instead, they say the court should have treated them as one conviction at sentencing.

According to the ruling, the court should have calculated his advisory sentencing range to be between 17 1/2 years and just under 22 years in prison, rather than between just under 22 years and 27 years in prison. The court ordered the trial court to re-sentence Maldonado-Passage.

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