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Ex-governor candidate found guilty in murder-for-hire plot

10 months 3 weeks 6 days ago Tuesday, April 02 2019 Apr 2, 2019 April 02, 2019 2:11 PM April 02, 2019 in News - AP National

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.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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