Zookeeper ac­cused of tar­get­ing big cat res­cue group in plot

Ripon Bulletin - - Nation -

OK­LA­HOMA CITY (AP) — The oper­a­tor of a Florid­abased an­i­mal sanc­tu­ary says she was the tar­get of an Ok­la­homa zookeeper who was in­dicted last week on fed­eral mur­der-for-hire charges.

Carole Baskin of Big Cat Res­cue said she’s clashed in the past with Joseph Mal­don­ado-Pas­sage, who goes by the nick­name “Joe Ex­otic.”

“He’s been threat­en­ing me for many, many years,” Baskin told The Ok­la­homan af­ter Mal­don­ado-Pas­sage’s ar­rest last week.

Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege that Mal­don­ado-Pas­sage tried to hire two sep­a­rate peo­ple to kill an un­named woman, who wasn’t harmed. One of the uniden­ti­fied peo­ple he sought to hire con­nected him with an un­der­cover FBI agent, who met with Mal­don­ado-Pas­sage in De­cem­ber 2017. The in­dict­ment was un­sealed Fri­day and Mal­don­ado-Pas­sage re­mains jailed in Florida. He didn’t re­ply to an email seek­ing com­ment and court records don’t list an at­tor­ney for him.

Baskin told the news­pa­per that Mal­don­ado-Pas­sage had pre­vi­ously posted threat­en­ing videos on­line, in­clud­ing one in which he shot an ef­figy of her in the head.

“You want to know why Carole Baskin bet­ter never, ever, ever see me face to face ever, ever, ever again,” he said in the video, just be­fore fir­ing a re­volver.

Mal­don­ado-Pas­sage for­merly ran a zoo in Wyn­newood, Ok­la­homa, and both sides have sparred over the treat­ment of lions, tigers and other big cats there. Baskin’s group, Big Cat Res­cue, pre­vi­ously won $1 mil­lion in civil judg­ments trade­mark and copy­right in­fringe­ments against Mal­don­ado-Pas­sage.

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