Prosecutors have told a federal judge that Joe Exotic is not entitled to a new murder-for-hire trial because ultimately it was his "own words that convicted him."
The former Oklahoma zookeeper was convicted at trial in 2019 of hiring two men to kill his chief critic, Carole Baskin, and of crimes involving his animals.
He was ordered in January to serve 21 years in federal prison after an appeals court threw out his original sentence.
He now is seeking a new trial in Oklahoma City federal court, primarily on newly discovered evidence and government misconduct grounds. He told the judge the key witnesses against him have recanted their testimony.
"Only in America can the government kidnap you, lie under oath, and put you in prison when they know better. But I have faith that I will go home," he said in a news release in April after his attorneys filed the new trial motion.
Prosecutors reject Joe Exotic's claims
In a 65-page response Thursday, prosecutors argued his claims are so weak he likely shouldn't even get an evidentiary hearing.
They told U.S. District Judge Scott Palk that "impeaching the testimony of any or all of those witnesses" does not call his recorded statements into question.
Simply put, they argued, even if jurors had been aware of all the information Joe Exotic presented in his motion they still would have convicted him. Prosecutors called his own statements "the strongest evidence against him."
"In the end, a 'defendant is entitled to a fair trial but not a perfect one, for there are no perfect trials,'" prosecutors wrote in their response, quoting from a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court opinion.
Joe Exotic "received just that — a fair trial."
Joe Exotic's 'Tiger King' fame from Netflix series has waned
Joe Exotic became famous early in the pandemic after Netflix released "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness."
The documentary series was a somewhat sympathetic look at his life, his case and his now closed zoo in Wynnewood. Millions watched while in lockdowns at home, making it a breakout hit.
Public interest in the self-described "gay, gun-carrying redneck with a mullet" has waned in the last year. A Netflix sequel released in November was widely panned.
He has always contended he was set up by a former business partner, Jeff Lowe. He claims in his new trial motion that he now has the proof.
In testimony about the first plot, jurors were told Joe Exotic hired an ex-convict working at the zoo to kill his critic.
Baskin is a Florida animal rights activist who had successfully sued him for more than $1 million. She had been outspoken against a major zoo attraction, so-called play times with tiger cubs.
The zoo worker, Allen Glover, testified Joe Exotic paid him $3,000 in 2017 to kill Baskin. "I said I'd cut her head off," Glover told jurors. "He was fine with it."
He also testified he never intended to go through with the plot and used the money to party on a Florida beach instead.
In an affidavit in September, Glover said he committed perjury during his trial testimony "regarding my involvement as the hitman."
"Jeff Lowe created the entire murder-for-hire plot from start to finish," he also said in the affidavit. He said Lowe later repeatedly rehearsed with him what to say to federal agents to get Joe Exotic indicted.
He said in the affidavit that Joe Exotic "always joked about wishing Carole Baskin was gone because of the financial stress she caused him."
"No one ever took him seriously."
Prosecutors tell judge Joe Exotic was convicted by his own words
In their response, prosecutors told the judge that Joe Exotic was secretly recorded laying out his plan to hire the zoo worker.
In one recorded conversation quoted by prosecutors, he told a government informant that "Jeff has 100% confidence in him because he’s done it before."
"And we are going to overnight his phone to Vegas, and Jeff is gonna text pictures every once in a while back to the staff. So that way, his phone registers in Vegas," he said. "As long as he don’t get caught red-handed, I think, I think we got this.
"But if they bust him red-handed, me and Jeff are just, we got our story down to where we fired the mother----- and he just went off the deep end."
Joe Exotic was recorded another time saying he was going to send Glover with $4,00
0 and pay $6,000 more "when it was done," prosecutors wrote. He lamented months later to the informant that "the last guy went … and drank it all."
Prosecutors pointed out that after his arrest he got upset with another zoo worker, John Finlay, for talking to the FBI about getting a fake ID for Glover to go to Florida.
"Oh, so, so you hung me out to dry? Huh?" they quoted Joe Exotic as saying in a 2018 recorded prison call using a fake name.
Prosecutors also argued jurors were aware of Lowe's alleged involvement in the first plot. They said Glover's assertion that Lowe "created" the plot does not relieve Joe Exotic of culpability.
In testimony about the second plot, jurors were told Joe Exotic offered to pay $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent posting as a hit man.
The meeting was set up by James Garretson, the government informant. In his new trial motion, Joe Exotic claims newly discovered evidence proves the informant's testimony at trial was "riddled with lies."
In their response, prosecutors quoted at length from the undercover agent's secretly recorded conversation with Joe Exotic on Dec. 8, 2017, at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park.
"Just like follow her into a mall parking lot and just cap her and drive off," Joe Exotic said.
He also talked about "selling a bunch of tigers" to make the payment and getting a pistol for the hit man at a flea market in Sulphur.
Joe Exotic says his prostate cancer is in remission
Joe Exotic was born Joseph Allen Schreibvogel but his name has changed over the years depending on his marital status. He is 59.
His attorneys refer to him in the motion for new trial as Joseph Maldonado. Prosecutors called him Joseph Maldonado-Passage.
In some social media posts, he has been using the last name of fiancé John Robert Graham. The two met in prison in Texas.
He was originally ordered to prison for 22 years. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled in July that Palk made a mistake and must resentence him.
He is being held at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, where he has been treated for early-stage prostate cancer.
He announced in social media posts Thursday that "the doctor informed me that my cancer is in remission."