OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal jury on Tuesday convicted a former Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate and zookeeper in an attempted murder-for-hire plot.
Jurors returned the guilty verdict following six days of testimony in the trial of Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, 56, who was accused of trying to arrange the killing of Florida animal sanctuary founder Carole Baskin, who criticized his treatment of animals. Baskin wasn't harmed.
Maldonado-Passage, known as "Joe Exotic," was also found guilty in the deaths of five tigers, and selling and offering to sell tiger cubs in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
He faces more than 20 years in prison.
Maldonado-Passage testified Monday that although disagreements with Baskin spilled over into his social media posts, he never truly wanted her dead.
Prosecutors say Maldonado-Passage offered $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent to kill Baskin, and the conversation was recorded. Maldonado-Passage's attorneys say their client wasn't being serious.
Maldonado-Passage used to operate a zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.
Known for his blonde mullet and expletive-laden rants on YouTube, Maldonado-Passage finished third in a three-way Libertarian primary in 2018. Maldonado-Passage also appeared on John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" when he was a 2016 write-in candidate for president.
US Supreme Court rejects Oklahoma death row inmate's appeal
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from an Oklahoma death row inmate who argued that a racist juror tainted the outcome of his trial.
The high court on Monday declined without comment to hear Julius Jones' case, The Oklahoman reported.
Jones, who is black, was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1999 shooting death of Paul Howell, a 45-year-old Edmond man who was white. Jones argued that his case should be reviewed because a juror referred to him by a racial epithet.
"Obviously, we are disappointed by the decision," said Dale Baich, a public defender in Arizona who represented Jones. "The systemic racial bias and the racist slur by a juror in this case led to a wrongful conviction. We will continue to investigate this and other issues as well."
Jones sought the appeal after Victoria Armstrong, a juror in the 2002 trial, told Jones' lawyers in 2017 that another juror commented that the trial proceedings were "a waste of time." Armstrong said the juror used a racist slur to describe Jones and said authorities should "shoot him behind the jail."
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rejected his appeal last year, saying similar claims had been reviewed and rejected.
The U.S. Supreme Court in January rejected another appeal Jones filed that argued that people of color are more likely to be sentenced to death in Oklahoma when the victim is white.
Jones has now exhausted his appeals and could receive an execution date once the state resumes executions.
Oklahoma last executed an inmate in 2015. It put the process on hold after abandoning lethal injections to explore the use of nitrogen gas for executions.