‘Team Tiger’ works to free Joe Exotic from prison

VIDEO: Working to free Joe Exotic

TULSA, Okla. — The Netflix series “Tiger King” captivated the country as people were isolated in their homes at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The polarizing star of the series 57-year-old Joseph Maldonado-Passage, or Joe Exotic, has since been reaching out for help in an effort to be freed from prison.

Maldonado-Passage has been in prison for the last two years after being convicted for plotting a murder-for-hire and various wildlife crimes.

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In his latest effort to find a way out, he recently mailed a letter to FOX23 Investigative Reporter Janna Clark asking for help.

“I am not only asking President Trump for an immediate pardon, but I am asking Governor Stitt to place a call to President Trump and ask him to sign my pardon,” Maldonado-Passage wrote.

As part of the ongoing effort to set him free, a Texas private investigator named Eric Love told FOX23 he saw problems with the case as soon as he looked at it. Love put together a group of attorneys working for free to get Maldonado-Passage out of prison called “Team Tiger.”

Armed with a 257-page petition, Love and his team drove 22 hours in a bus across the country to Washington, D.C. to get President Donald Trump’s attention.

This undated file photo provided by the Santa Rose County Jail in Milton, Fla., shows Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic. A federal judge in Oklahoma has awarded ownership of the zoo made famous in Netflix's “Tiger King” docuseries to Joe Exotic's rival, Carole Baskin. In a ruling Monday, June 1, 2020, U.S. District Judge Scott Palk granted control of the Oklahoma zoo that was previously run by Joseph Maldonado-Passage — also known as Joe Exotic — to Big Cat Rescue Corp.
This undated file photo provided by the Santa Rose County Jail in Milton, Fla., shows Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic. A federal judge in Oklahoma has awarded ownership of the zoo made famous in Netflix's “Tiger King” docuseries to Joe Exotic's rival, Carole Baskin. In a ruling Monday, June 1, 2020, U.S. District Judge Scott Palk granted control of the Oklahoma zoo that was previously run by Joseph Maldonado-Passage — also known as Joe Exotic — to Big Cat Rescue Corp. (Santa Rosa County Jail/via AP, File)

Before the infamous Netflix series aired, a federal court convicted Maldonado-Passage for shooting five tigers and hiring someone to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin.

Baskin runs Big Cat Rescue in Florida.

Maldonado-Passage’s feud with Baskin began as he thought she was trying to shut down his zoo.

A judge granted Baskin control of the zoo.

Maldonado-Passage wrote in his letter that he “never had as much as a speeding ticket to be railroaded by a corrupt system as this.”

“My mom has died. Carole got my zoo,” he said.

Love says his team is working to prove Maldonado-Passage’s trial was unfair and the jury was tainted.

He says “Tiger Team” is gathering evidence that will show Joe euthanized tigers for medical reasons, and that he never planned to have anyone hurt Baskin.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oklahoma City wouldn’t do an on-camera interview, but did offer FOX23 a response about the situation:

“The Department of Justice remains steadfastly confident that the court record, evidence and trial testimony fully supports the correctness of the jury’s verdict.”
U.S. Attorneys, Western District of Oklahoma

Maldonado-Passage ended his letter to Janna by writing “Please help me,” followed by “Joe Exotic” as his signature.

Love says they received calls last week from the president’s office and they feel confident Trump could pardon Maldonado-Passage.