‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic Demands New Judge in $93 Million Civil Suit

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) — “Tiger King” docuseries star Joe Exotic demanded Monday that the federal judge overseeing his $93 million civil lawsuit against the federal government step aside, accusing him of being biased, homophobic and an animal rights supporter.

Joe Exotic. (Credit: Santa Rosa County Jail)

Exotic — real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage — says U.S. District Judge Scott Palk in Oklahoma City is the same judge who sentenced him to 22 years in federal prison after his criminal trial last year. Exotic was convicted of trying to hire a hit man to murder Carole Baskin — a competing tiger sanctuary owner in Florida. He was also convicted of falsifying wildlife records and violating endangered animal laws when he killed and sold tigers.

Exotic had a cult following on YouTube for several years with videos of him firing guns, swearing and singing country music while among his large collection of tigers and other wild animals at his Oklahoma zoo. Sporting a flamboyant blonde mullet, Exotic became a pop culture star last month when Netflix debuted its true-crime docuseries that featured Exotic, Baskin and other eccentric big cat keepers.

Serving as his own attorney while behind bars, Exotic sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior and several of his perceived enemies on March 17, alleging a conspiracy to take his animals away from him that he also blames on his mother’s death. 

Exotic claims the judge “has a borderline conflict of being an animal rights advocate and [is] homophobic” due to “hostile and agitated” things the judge said to him at sentencing. He claims the judge should have recused himself from the criminal case, too.

“Remarks made like ‘I will make sure you are never around another animal the rest of your life,’” the two-page motion to recuse states. “The plaintiff has never been accused of any animal abuse in his life to deserve such a statement.”

Exotic accuses the judge of saying “you were trying to broker a pair of lions to support your husband from jail,” something Exotic denies.

“Which even if the plaintiff would have done this, which he did not. [sic] It was perfectly legal as it was in the boundaries of the state of Texas of which his husband and the breeder lived,” the motion states.

Exotic’s lawsuit also targets former business partner Jeffery Lowe, claiming he made false statements to federal agents.

“He was the main person in this entrapment scheme to take my zoo for free,” the complaint stated. “Changed my medicine with illegal drugs, stole my animals under fraudulent reasons. Destroyed my house with all my personal property in it.”

Exotic claims that during his time in prison, he has been sexually assaulted and is fearful of being tied to a chair. He wants to be “repaid for my personal property and 18 years of research lost” due to the case against him.

The “Tiger King” series also explores Baskin’s story, including the disappearance of her husband Don Lewis in 1997. She has repeatedly denied allegations she had anything to do with the disappearance.  

Exotic bluntly accused her of feeding Lewis’ body to her tigers and keeping his assets for herself. In his music video for the song “Here Kitty Kitty,” Exotic is shown lip-syncing to a song while a woman feeds meat through a cage to a tiger while holding a decapitated mannequin head on a tray.

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