In the end, President Trump didn’t save Joe Exotic—and the TV star’s legal team will have to return that limo now.
Hopes ran so high among Exotic’s legal team that they rented a 38-foot “Monster Ram Truck Limo,” complete with disco lighting and an open rear deck, to scoop the convicted star of Netflix’s “Tiger King” from prison within moments of the anticipated order.
“We are 100% confident that it’s going to fall today,” Eric Love, a private investigator who’s been working with a team of lawyers, dubbed “Team Tiger,” to help get Exotic out of prison, told VICE News on Tuesday evening. “We are at the law office with the limousine. We are all set up and ready to go.”
But when Trump finally released his list of 143 names around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, Exotic wasn’t on it.
The snub marks a crushing defeat for the “Tiger King,” who waged a lengthy and unorthodox public relations campaign to convince the president he was worth setting free from the FMC Fort Worth federal prison in Texas. In the end, Trump balked at releasing the man described in his own 257-page pardon application as a “gay, gun-toting, redneck in Oklahoma.”
Exotic’s supporters were so confident before the news broke that they announced detailed plans to greet the reality star with a hairdresser and make-up artist to spruce him up, and to swing by McDonald’s in the limo to grab some McRibs and Dr. Pepper.
“Joe wants to look the same way coming out that he did going in,” Love said, hours before learning that no pardon would be coming. “I’m going to ask them to have the McRibs ready to go.”
Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was convicted last year on 17 federal charges of animal abuse and two counts of murder-for-hire over an alleged plot to kill the owner of a rival tiger zoo named Carole Baskin, who featured prominently in the Netflix series.
His allies have since staged publicity events aimed at catching Trump’s eye, including a high-profile bus trip to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. One of Exotic’s associates boasted to The New York Times that the team blew $10,000 at Trump’s hotel in an attempt to get Trump’s attention.
Love, who was on the bus for the trip to D.C., said that figure reported in the Times was probably too high, though.
“That whole trip all-in was about $15,000, and that included the fuel for the bus,” he told VICE News Tuesday. He said the cost at Trump’s hotel would have included expenditures for 11 rooms and food for the group.
Exotic even slapped the Department of Justice with a lawsuit demanding the decision be placed squarely on Trump’s desk, after the department ruled that he didn’t qualify for a pardon through the usual channels.
In April, Trump said he’d “take a look” at pardoning Exotic, although he didn’t sound particularly enthusiastic about it.