AP NEWS

Trial starts in ex-Oklahoma zookeeper’s murder-for-hire plot

March 12, 2019
FILE - This file photo provided by the Santa Rose County Jail in Milton, Fla., shows Joseph Maldonado-Passage. Jury selection is under way for the ex-Oklahoma zookeeper and one-time Libertarian candidate for governor of Oklahoma who's charged in an attempted murder-for-hire plot. He is charged with trying to hire someone to kill the operator of a Florida-based animal sanctuary. (Santa Rosa County Jail via AP, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Jury selection is underway for an ex-Oklahoma zookeeper and former candidate for governor who’s charged in an attempted murder-for-hire plot.

Prospective jurors in the trial of Joseph Maldonado-Passage were questioned Tuesday in a federal court in Oklahoma City. Testimony is scheduled to start March 25.

Maldonado-Passage was indicted in September for allegedly trying to hire someone to kill the operator of a Florida-based animal sanctuary. He has pleaded not guilty.

He is also accused of killing five tigers in October 2017 and selling and offering to sell tiger cubs in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Known as “Joe Exotic,” Maldonado-Passage formerly operated a zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. He ran unsuccessfully for Oklahoma governor last year as a Libertarian candidate and appeared on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” when he was a 2016 write-in candidate for president.