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'Tiger King' Joe Exotic hopes to lay roots in Fort Smith if released from prison

Joe Exotic rose to fame in 2020 with the Netflix documentary "Tiger King." Now behind bars, he says if he gets pardoned, he plans on settling down in Fort Smith.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Joe Exotic became a household name when Americans were staying home to keep themselves safe from the coronavirus. Netflix came out with the popular docuseries show "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness."

It follows the story of Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage a.k.a "Joe Exotic" who kept hundreds of lions, tigers and bears at his facility in Oklahoma.

Joe Exotic, who maintains his innocence, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for his role in a failed murder-for-hire plot targeting his chief rival, self-proclaimed animal rights activist Carole Baskin, who runs Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. Baskin was not harmed. 

Sometime later, a federal court found that the trial court wrongly treated his two convictions separately in calculating his prison term. The appeal said the court should have treated the convictions as one. The court agreed and reduced his sentence to 21 years, shortening it by a year. 

Currently, Joe Exotic is being housed at The Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina. It is a United States federal prison for male inmates of all security levels. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and is currently receiving treatment. He was moved from a federal medical center in Fort Worth, Texas to Butner in November of 2021. Before that, he was being held at FMC Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas. 

"I'm looking forward to coming to Fort Smith and shopping at Walmart, the local grocery stores, the local hardware stores and meeting people in the aisle just like it would be anybody else. I'm really looking forward to bringing some of my charity work to Fort Smith for teen intervention," he said. "Once I make it home, you will see that I am a really cool person. They tried to pass me off as a crack head but thanks to my YouTube channel and the people who didn't ever turn their backs, the world saw the truth."

Joe Exotic says he will continue his charity work in Fort Smith and around the world.

"I have hopes to build a community ballpark in memory of my brother and the people my zoo represented. I don't know if you already have an outreach program for youth about drugs and self-identity, but we will start one. I get letters from kids 7-years-old to 22 that just really need a friend and a shoulder to lean on. We will feed the homeless and have charity events for children and people that are dying of horrible diseases."

"That is what my life was about and will continue to be about. I have been offered a world concert tour which I plan to accept. So, we will do amazing things for people who can't get that hand up. Most of all, I am going to be an amazing husband to Seth Posey, an amazing stepdad and I can't wait to be a son-in-law to Angela and Matt. You will see me around town, and I will be no better than you. I will be just as friendly as you. Be my voice to get me home, please."

Joe Exotic was born with two diseases called common variable immune disease (CVID) and hemoglobin anemia and has little to no immune system.  

"My blood doesn't produce blood right and I got diagnosed, (with prostate cancer). I have been getting blood infusions since I have been in here because that's what I did out in the world. Every since I got in here I got diagnosed with prostate cancer."

Doctors caught it early enough and flew him to Butner, North Carolina where he underwent one Lupron shot which is something they put in your arm, and it stops your body from producing testosterone.

He then went through nine weeks of radiation.

"That burned me up pretty bad. After I was actually done is when it got me the worst. I bled and passed blood clots for two months. I still to this day, I have puked for 104 days straight. But my cancer is in remission. My blood counts aren't looking bad. They are dropping every month. My white blood cells, my red blood cells and my platelets are all dropping every month. I have to figure out what is causing that. We think it's going to be my immune disease. So, uh, but I try to stay as healthy as I can because I gotta beat all of this."

Joe says his lawyers have filed a motion for a new trial citing newly discovered evidence and government misconduct.

"As long as this is all in front of the same judge and same U.S Attorneys that know that they all lied to put me here, I am never going to get out that way," he said. "Allen Glover went worldwide on Netflix Television and admitted that he lied completely, made up the story and his plot was to kill me. He even took them to the zoo and showed them how they were going to cut my head off, okay? Why am I still here?"

Joe Exotic failed to receive clemency from former President Donald Trump. He is now asking President Biden for the same.

"Whether people out there love President Biden or they hate President Biden, President Biden is my savior right now. If he wants to keep his promise of what he stood for prison reform and justice reform and the truth," Joe said. 

He says he is now planning his own run for President of the United States in 2024 on the Libertarian ticket.

"I have a million plus fans out there who are begging me to do this, Joe said. "I spoke with the prison officials days ago, to get permission to do this interview, and they are running it up the flagpole because I don't want to end up in solitary confinement to be shut up if I run for office and they call it protective custody. I won't make it through another solitary confinement. I just won't. I am waiting for them to answer to say if I can stay in general population to do this. If I can I am going to have my power of attorney go ahead and mail my papers in."

His zoo in Oklahoma closed permanently to the public in August of 2020 after Jeff Lowe, who was also featured in the Netflix documentary, took over. 

Federal authorities seized 68 big cats from an animal park in Oklahoma in May of 2021 after the Lowes were accused of recurring inhumane treatment and improper handling of animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs helped the federal government rescue the animals.

RELATED: Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge helps federal government rescue big cats from Joe Exotic's former park

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