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A former wildlife park owner who appeared in a Louis Theroux documentary has been jailed for 22 years after attempting to hire a hit-man in attempt to kill an animal rights activist.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka 'Joe Exotic', featured on America's Most Dangerous Pets back in 2011, where he showed Louis around his cages that were filled with animals including lions and tigers.
Carole Baskin, a prominent animal rights activist in the US, had numerous death threats posted on social media sites by Maldonado-Passage.
Baskin is the owner of Big Cat Rescue - an animal sanctuary in Tampa, Florida. The organisation is dedicated to rescuing abandoned animals including lions, tigers, bobcats, and cougars.
She openly criticised Maldonado-Passage, securing a million-dollar judgement against him and his business in 2011.
In November 2017, he told an undercover FBI agent that he'd pay them $3,000 for Baskin to be killed, promising thousands more after she had died, according to the indictment.
Maldonado-Passage, 56, from Oklahoma, was convicted on two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.
In 2018 he was charged with falsifying forms in an interstate sale of tiger cubs, as well as personally shooting and killing five tigers in 2017 to make room in his cage of other big cats. As tigers are an endangered species, he was charged with the violation of the Endangered Species Act.
In a statement released on her website and YouTube channel, Carole Baskin said she'd spent much of the last ten years looking over her shoulder.
She asked the court to consider what would happen to her family if 'this vicious, obsessed man is ever released from jail'.
She said: "The prosecution didn't need to present the daily barrage of threats to harm, rape or kill me that were my daily experience for the past ten years.
"The evidence showed that over the course of many years, he tried to coerce others into killing me and in the end had to resort to hiring others to kill me."
She also warned the court that Maldonado-Passage might try to claim that ill health was behind his actions, stating that in the past he has made up having illnesses, and had even lied about having cancer.
She added: "If he completes his sentence and is released, we will end up spending the rest of our lives, constantly looking over our shoulders, for a threat to our lives.
"I hope you will give us as many years free of that threat as you can."
On 22 January, U.S. District Judge Scott L. Palk sentenced Maldonado-Passage to 264 months in federal prison.
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