Joe Exotic, the imprisoned star of Netflix docuseries Tiger King, has filed a $94 million lawsuit claiming that the U.S. government targeted him because of his sexuality.
Exotic, real name Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for a multitude of charges, including paying to have his rival Carol Baskin — an animal rights activist — murdered.
In addition to two counts of murder for hire, the Oklahoma-based exotic animal breeder was charged with eight counts of illegally trading animals and nine violations of the Endangered Species Act.
But in a lawsuit obtained by People, Exotic claims he was targeted by federal agencies “because [he] is an openly gay male with the largest collection of generic tigers and crossbreeds.”
The lawsuit, which names the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as defendants as well as various government agents, accuses the U.S. government of putting tigers on the endangered species list in order to prosecute him and further an alleged “animal rights agenda.”
He also accuses a federal wildlife agent of having “knowingly accepted statements he knew were false, allowing his witnesses to lie under oath.”
Exotic is asking for $94 million in damages, including almost $74 million to cover the loss of his tigers, and $15 million for false arrest, false imprisonment, selective enforcement, and the death of his mother.
His lawsuit also accuses his former business partner, Jeff Lowe, of switching his medicine with illegal drugs and ruining his property.
Lowe’s wife, Lauren, told People that they are unconcerned by the lawsuit, saying they are instead focused on taking care of Exotic’s animals.
Exotic owned and ran the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, and once claimed to be the most prolific breeder of tigers in the United States.
He also ran for president as an independent in 2016, and for Governor of Oklahoma as a Libertarian in 2018.
Netflix’s true crime docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, which started streaming on March 20, details Exotic’s years-long rivalry with Carole Baskin, who owns animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue in Florida and accused Exotic of animal abuse in his breeding programs and private zoo.
Exotic’s subsequent attempt to have Baskin murdered resulted in his arrest in 2018. He is currently serving his sentence in FMC Fort Worth federal prison in Texas.
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