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Federal Judge Gives Control of Joe Exotic’s Zoo to Carole Baskin
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An Oklahoma federal judge has awarded ownership of the zoo made famous in the Netflix hit “Tiger King” docuseries to Joe Exotic’s notorious rival, Carole Baskin.

U.S. District Judge Scott Palk in a ruling Monday granted control of the Oklahoma zoo that was previously owned and run by Joseph Maldonado-Passage—better known as Joe Exotic—to Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue Corp.

The judgment gives Baskin control of about 16 acres of land in Garvin County, Oklahoma, as well as several cabins and vehicles. Greater Wynnewood Development Group, LLC, the company once owned by Exotic, must “vacate the Zoo Land premises within 120 days of service of this Order …Vacation of premises shall also require removal of all zoo animals from the Zoo Land,” the court order said.


Baskin and Maldonado Passage had for years been in a feud that escalated into a court battle. Maldonado-Passage argued that Baskin was deliberately trying to destroy his business in videos she posted to her YouTube page and social media channels. Meanwhile, Baskin crusaded against Exotic’s use of tigers for profit and claimed he was abusing animals 

Baskin, who owns an animal sanctuary in Florida, previously sued Maldonado-Passage for trademark and copyright and won a $1.45 million civil judgment against him. 

In a second lawsuit filed in 2016, the big cat rights activist claimed Exotic had subsequently transferred the zoo to his mother in a bid to evade creditors. On Monday Judge Scott Palk ordered that the property be turned over to Baskin.

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Maldonado Passage is serving a 22-year sentence for a murder for hire plot against Baskin and other crimes that include animal abuse. Court documents allege Exotic tried to pay a hitman $3,000 to kill Baskin, and also that he killed five tigers, sold baby lemurs, and falsified paperwork to say they were donated.

Maldonado-Passage remains incarcerated in Fort Worth, Texas, and in a handwritten letter posted Monday on Twitter, repeated his plea for a presidential pardon.

An attorney for the current owner of the park, Jeff Lowe, told CNN the judgment was not unexpected.

“We anticipated Carol Baskin getting the title to the former park that once belonged to Joe Exotic, and we did not challenge her attempts to do so,” Walter Mosley said Monday. “All of Jeff’s focus is on opening the new Tiger King Park in Thackerville, which should be opening in the next 120 days.”

Exotic’s team spoke for him from Twitter.

“While we again acknowledge it is truly time to pray for justice for George Floyd’s family as well as an end to systemic racism in America, we must address Carol [sic] Baskin’s treachery before it goes unchecked,” a tweet from an account run by Maldonado-Passage’s management team read.

His team released a longer statement on the website “Help Free Joe,” in which the “Joe Exotic Team” said it “prays for justice for George Floyd’s family as well as an end to systemic racism in America.”

Baskin’s husband, Howard Baskin, acknowledged the judgment on Big Cat Rescue’s website, posting links to the court documents and writing that the documents “speak for themselves.”

Monday’s decision orders the zoo animals to be removed from the property within 120 days, but it does not detail what should happen to them.



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