AP NEWS

Ex-governor candidate found guilty in murder-for-hire plot

April 2, 2019 GMT
FILE - This file photo provided by the Santa Rose County Jail in Milton, Fla., shows Joseph Maldonado-Passage. Prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage, also known as "Joe Exotic, tried to arrange the killing of Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue. Lurors were shown a Facebook video Tuesday, March 26, 2019, that depicts Maldonado-Passage shooting a blow-up "Carole" doll in the head. Other videos show him pretending to dig a grave for Baskin and threatening to mail her rattlesnakes. (Santa Rosa County Jail via AP, File)
FILE - This file photo provided by the Santa Rose County Jail in Milton, Fla., shows Joseph Maldonado-Passage. Prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage, also known as "Joe Exotic, tried to arrange the killing of Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue. Lurors were shown a Facebook video Tuesday, March 26, 2019, that depicts Maldonado-Passage shooting a blow-up "Carole" doll in the head. Other videos show him pretending to dig a grave for Baskin and threatening to mail her rattlesnakes. (Santa Rosa County Jail via AP, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal jury on Tuesday convicted a former Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate and zookeeper in an attempted murder-for-hire plot.

Jurors returned the guilty verdict following six days of testimony in the trial of Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, 56, who was accused of trying to arrange the killing of Florida animal sanctuary founder Carole Baskin, who criticized his treatment of animals. Baskin wasn’t harmed.

Maldonado-Passage, known as “Joe Exotic,” was also found guilty in the deaths of five tigers, and selling and offering to sell tiger cubs in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. District Judge Scott Palk did not set a sentencing date for Maldonado-Passage, who could face more than 20 years in prison.

Maldonado-Passage testified in his own defense on Monday that although disagreements with Baskin spilled over into his social media posts, he never truly wanted her dead.

Prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage offered $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent to kill Baskin during a December 2017 meeting that was recorded and played for the jury last week. In the recording, he told the agent, “Just like follow her into a mall parking lot and just cap her and drive off.”

Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys have said their client, who used to operate a zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, wasn’t being serious.

Known for his blonde mullet and expletive-laden rants on YouTube, Maldonado-Passage finished third in a three-way Libertarian primary in 2018. Maldonado-Passage also appeared on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” when he was a 2016 write-in candidate for president.