In newly released audio obtained by TMZ, the 59-year-old Tiger King star criticized the deal as a “slap in the face” to every American who is wrongly detained. Joe—legal name Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage—is currently serving a 21-year-prison sentence for animal abuse charges and a murder-for-hire attempt on his longtime rival and Tiger King co-star, Carole Baskin.
Joe reiterated his innocence in the recording and urged President Joe Biden to secure his freedom. He questioned why the United States government was so quick to negotiate Griner’s release, while he and other “wrongfully detained” Americans remained behind bars. The audio surfaced nearly 10 months after Griner, a 32-year-old WNBA star, was arrested in Russia for allegedly bringing hash oil to a Moscow airport. Griner ultimately pleaded guilty to smuggling drugs into the country, and was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison.
On Thursday, the Biden administration announced that Griner was heading home, after Russia agreed to release the athlete in exchange for Viktor Bout—a Russian arms dealer who spent the last decade in a U.S. prison for multiple terrorism charges.
“The whole Brittney Griner and Trevor Reed prisoner swap is a slap in every American’s face that is wrongfully detained in the American Federal Prison System, including myself,” Joe said in the recording. “A dangerous man was released for Brittney Griner to be free. It’s time Joe Exotic gets to go home for Christmas to be home with [boyfriend] Seth and his son for the first time in 5 Christmases.”