OKLAHOMA CITY — Exotic cat breeder Joe Exotic already had been planning to leave behind the zoo he founded when new owner Jeff Lowe and a “hapless crony” of Lowe’s tried to set him up, his attorney told jurors Monday.
“He had had it. He was ready to go, and he started unloading his inventory,” Assistant Federal Public Defender Bill Earley said in an opening statement at the former gubernatorial candidate’s murder-for-hire trial.
The defendant, whose full name is Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, is on trial in Oklahoma City federal court. He is 56. He is accused of paying $3,000 to a zoo worker in November 2017 to kill his chief critic, Florida animal sanctuary operator Carole Baskin. He is accused of later offering to pay an FBI agent who was posing as a hit man. He also is accused of 19 wildlife violations including killing five healthy tigers at the zoo in October 2017.