Why ‘Tiger King’ Star Joe Exotic Has Greater Chance Of Getting Pardoned While Donald Trump’s In Office — Lawyer Explains

Donald Trump Jr. joked this week that he could lobby for his dad to pardon 'Tiger King' star Joe Exotic. But could it really happen?

Joe Exotic Pardoned
View gallery
Image Credit: Netflix

Netflix’s docuseries, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, has captivated audiences and made Joe Exotic, a viral sensation. The owner of G.W. Zoo, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in 2019 to 22 years in prison for animal abuse and for his part in a murder-for-hire plot against his nemesis Carole Baskin. But Donald Trump Jr., 41, revealed on Monday, April 6, during an appearance on SiriusXM, that he thinks Joe’s punishment is “aggressive” and said he’d be “for” the convicted animal abuser getting a pardon.  Although Don’s comments sound more like a joke — after all he said he’d love to do it “just for the meme” — a top criminal lawyer tells HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY that a pardon for Joe is not out of the realm of possibilities with Donald Trump in the White House.

“I believe that most of the pardons that President Trump has given out to date have not gone through the normal channels,” New York criminal attorney Lance Lazzaro told HL. “It’s usually been based on friendship to the President, which is something that we have never seen, nor should we ever want to see, where people can get pardoned because of who they know.”

According to Lance, in the past pardons have always gone through the Department of Justice. “In order to get a pardon you have to make an application through the Justice Department and then they make a recommendation to the President, which is the normal process.”

And although Don. Jr. thinks Joe’s sentence is too long, Lance says it’s not out of the ordinary based on his crimes. “I would say that is not an abnormal sentence, it is not a life sentence, and it’s not a sentence to me that is unduly harsh. I think if you couple the animal abuse with the attempted murder, 22 years is not a sentence that is overly harsh.”

In April 2019 Joe was found guilty of two counts of murder-for-hire as well as 17 federal wildlife charges, including killing five endangered tigers in October 2017.  He is currently behind bars in Texas.

More From Our Partners