Born Joseph Maldonado-Passage, the big cat breeder was sentenced on Wednesday. In April 2019, he had been convicted of hiring a hitman to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin in Florida, murdering five tigers, and selling and proposing to sell tiger cubs. KOCO News 5 reports.
In addition to being a big cat enthusiast and running an exotic animal park, he was a self-proclaimed country music star, and he ran for president in 2016 and governor of Oklahoma in 2018.
In Sept. 2018, Maldonado-Passage was charged with conspiring to kill Baskin and several wildlife crimes. The prior year, in Nov. 2017, he had been accused of enlisting someone to murder Baskin in Florida, hiring a person who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.
Maldonado-Passage was accused of killing five tigers in Oct. 2017 in order to make room for more big cats, and also selling and proposing to sell tiger cubs. “I put five tigers to sleep because they were in pain," Maldonado-Passage said in Nov. 2018 to KOCO. "They were in pain. They had toenails coming out of their ankles. They had no teeth. They had exposed root canals."
Last April, a jury found Maldonado-Passage guilty on all charges in the murder-for-hire trial. Though the judge told Maldonado-Passage he had the right to an attorney, he didn’t use one and instead testified in his own defense. The judge instructed the jurors not to hold it against him.