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JOE EXOTIC’S TESTIMONY: The only thing missing from ‘Tiger King’ was his day on the stand

 
What astonished us as we watched all seven episodes of ‘Tiger King’ back to back in an epic binge session last week (you too, right?) was not only the crazy story and the crazier characters, but what an incredible feat of filmmaking had been accomplished by directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin.

How, we wondered, did they get all of this stuff on video? If you’ve seen the series, you know what we’re talking about. It’s just astonishing how many people talk on camera for this thing, and discuss subjects that are often self-incriminating. Even the federal prosecutor, Amanda Maxfield Green, openly discusses the case and even reads her summation from it, which stunned us. From crazy scenes featuring wild animals, to Joe Exotic’s wild life as a polygamous gay Oklahoma tiger breeder, this thing’s twists and turns just kept surprising us.

Until, that is, the final episode, when suddenly, the filming stopped.

If you haven’t watched the series yet, we’ll try not to spoil things, but what much of the series is building up to is a showdown in federal court that, unfortunately, was not captured on camera.

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And the absolute highlight of that courtroom drama was Joe Exotic’s decision, against the advice of his own attorneys, to testify in his own defense.

But if you know anything about Joe, you know there’s no way he would not have wanted to get on the witness stand for that epic performance, which took place on April 1, 2019.

There’s some hint of how that performance went as Howard Baskin admits that Joe had a knack for being persuasive. But it disappointed us that this climactic segment from this wild story was left almost completely out of the show.

But then it dawned on us — although ‘Tiger King’ left out Joe Exotic’s court testimony, that didn’t mean we couldn’t see what he said from an official court transcript.

And what a transcript.

If you were as gobsmacked by this series as we were, if you were left wanting to know more about Joe, his multiple husbands, his nemesis Carole Baskin and his sketchy business associates Jeff Lowe and James Garretson, this thing is a goldmine.

Not only does Joe describe his version of things with the help of his public defender, William Earley, but he gives as good as he gets from Amanda Maxfield Green in her cross examination.

In his testimony, Joe tries to convince the jury that his animosity for Carole Baskin had largely faded by 2017, when he began negotiating with PETA executive Brittany Peet to begin getting rid of his animals and getting out of the zoo business for good. With a deal in the works, he hoped, to settle with PETA and then Baskin, and several years after making his videos threatening Baskin, why would he want, at that point, to pay someone to kill her?

Also, what comes out in this testimony that we didn’t learn in the TV series is that Garretson, the rotund businessman Joe referred to as “a giant Chucky Doll,” had tried to get Joe to hire a hit man who was actually an undercover cop referred to in the court case as “Mark Williams,” a pseudonym. But Joe testifies that Garretson and Williams were so aggressive about it, he sensed that he was being set up and didn’t take the bait.

And as for paying Allen Glover that $3,000? That was on orders from Lowe, he says, and had nothing to do with targeting Carole Baskin.

Is he telling the truth? Hell, we don’t know. But it sure makes for some entertaining reading, and feels like a lost chapter from the TV series. It’s a lengthy transcript, and we’ve formatted it as best we could to make it a faster read. We’d love to get your thoughts on Joe’s day in court.

 

[Joseph “Joe Exotic” Schreibvogel Finlay Maldonado Passage]

 

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William Earley, Assistant US Public Defender: Would you state your name, please?
Joe Exotic: Joseph Maldonado-Passage.
Earley: Now, Mr. Passage — can I refer to you as Mr. Passage?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: All right. Now, we have also heard another name, I believe it’s Schreibvogel, if I’m not mistaken.
Joe: That was my birth name, yes, sir.
Earley: All right. And I don’t know if the court reporter has ever had it spelled for her. So, if you would, just spell that for the court reporter.
Joe: Schreibvogel?
Earley: Yes.
Joe: S-C-H-R-E-I-B, as in boy, V as in victor, O-G-E-L.
Earley: So Mr. Passage, what type of employment have you had during your adult life?
Joe: When I was in high school, I worked at a nursing home as a nurse’s aide. When I graduated high school, I went through the Texoma Police Academy in Dennison, Texas, and graduated as the youngest police chief in the state of Texas’s history. In 1986, me and my brother and my first husband bought a pet store in Arlington, Texas. Did that for 16 years. My brother got killed in 1997, and me and my parents built the zoo there in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, in memory of him. And we opened in 1999.
Earley: All right. So the zoo, the park that we have heard about in testimony was something that you started?
Joe: Yes, sir.
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Earley: And that was based on — on what?
Joe: Well, when my brother got killed, he was the biggest part of the pet store, so it was never the same. So me and mama and dad and Brian decided to sell the pet store. And mom and dad got $140,000 from the insurance company from my brother being killed in a car wreck. And my dad called it blood money, and he didn’t want anybody making any money off of that. So he was going to donate it to charity. And you hear on TV how all the charities misuse money and stuff, so we all kind of agreed to build this rescue zoo in memory of my brother because one of his dreams was to go to Africa and see the animals running free. So we built — built the animal park there in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.
Earley: So describe the park.
Joe: It’s right off of I-35 and Exit 64. It’s 16 — started out with 16 acres. It came with just an exterior fence and a roping arena and an old barn and an old farmhouse. And we started building cages, and animals started coming in and they never stopped.
Earley: So what was the source of these animals?
Joe: Most of all the animals come from people that rehomed them there because they had exotic animals, and they either couldn’t take care of them anymore, or they got too big, or the city laws changed, or some state laws changed. And over the course of 20 years, we probably rescued and rehomed more animals than anybody in the United States.
Earley: So is it fair to say that over the years the facility grew?
Joe: It grew tremendous, yes, sir.
Earley: All right. So what was offered at the park as far as what could the public do at your park?
Joe: When we first started, we just had a gift shop and a few cages and a — in the gift shop we had a — kind of a Subway shop where my mom would actually be the cashier and make the Subway sandwiches and stuff. And over the years we incorporated a traveling show where we did fairs and malls and stuff like that. And people built cages in memory of people that they have lost, so we called it a memorial park because animals got to live in honor of people that passed away. And there was actually three people buried underneath their exhibits there at the zoo. So it turned into 152 memorials as of when I left the zoo last year. And we turned it into a traveling magic show and tiger show for nine years.
Earley: So did you offer any educational programs at the park?
Joe: We — after — after we did the — retired the magic show and the traveling educational show, we built a stage that had bleachers, and I did an educational show twice a day.
Earley: Now, at some point was there a video production facility built at the park?
Joe: I believe that started late 2011, maybe 2012. We had a TV studio where we videotaped everything going on in the park, and we broadcasted it on a website called Joe Exotic TV. And we did — brought animals on the show and taught people about animals.
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Earley: So Joe Exotic TV, was that something that was broadcast over the Internet, essentially?
Joe: Yes, sir. It was — it was on YouTube and the website, yes, sir.
Earley: OK. And you talked about some of the things that you put on the show to include things about animals. What other things were on the show?
Joe: We did online auctions. We raised money. And in 2008, I formed a corporation called the United States Zoological Association, where we went around and helped people rebuild their zoos instead of taking their animals away from them. We taught them how to — to fix up their zoo so they could keep their animals instead of always sending them to a sanctuary. So we raised money for that organization. And then we had another thing online that we called the Animal Miracle Network, where we reached out to people that were terminally ill and dying, and we granted last wishes with animals for people all over the United States for one of their last wishes. So we kind of did all of that on our TV show.
Earley: Did you have sponsors?
Joe: We did have sponsors.
Earley: For example, who would sponsor your show?
Joe: Seth Wadley Ford, the local Sonics, and the local McDonald’s.
Earley: Now, at some point was there another show developed for broadcast?
Joe: We did. We created a second show with a complete separate website called Joe Gone Wild.
Earley: So when was that developed?
Joe: I want to believe maybe late 2013.
Earley: OK. And what was the content of the Joe Gone Wild show?
Joe: It was — it was pretty out there. I don’t know if you have ever watched the movie ‘Jackass,’ but we kind of incorporated it to be after the movie ‘Jackass’ because the crazier you got, the more people watched it. We ended up with 64 million viewers. But the website had an age restriction to where you had to be 18 years old, and you had to verify your date of birth in order to watch the show. And the webmaster that designed the website had a chat room on one side, and people all over the world could chat with each other during the show, and then they could call into the zoo office and request requests or dare us to do different things on the show for donations for the animals. And at times we raised $20,000 in two hours.
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Earley: Now, if you would, just — and keep it as tame as possible, but what kind of outlandish material would you — would you do on these shows?
Joe: We had tons of costumes underneath the desk. There was times that we dressed up like we were in Jamaica, and we had big drink glasses that we got at the state fair, and we put dry ice in them and made them look like bongs, smoking weed on the thing, even though I don’t smoke weed. We had — I don’t know if you have ever run into the diaper people on Facebook, but there’s a huge community of adult diaper people on Facebook, and they called in and dared us to wear adult diapers one night. We did that for 500 bucks. We had blowup dolls. It was — it was pretty crazy.
Earley: All right. Now, we saw a number of videos that the government played during their case in chief. Do you recall those?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: All right. And, obviously, all of those were kind of centered on either animal rights or Carole Baskin, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Earley: Where were those shows? I mean, were they within the Joe Exotic, or were they on the Joe Gone Wild?
Joe: I can’t be exactly because they didn’t play the entire video of the show. Every show was recorded live. And at the beginning of every show it had disclaimers saying it was for entertainment purposes only and viewer discretion advised and foul language would be involved and all that, and some would go to YouTube after they were recorded.
Earley: All right. So were there shows that you produced or got yourself involved in that had nothing to do with Carole Baskin?
Joe: Thousands.
Earley: Give us an example of a show that you would do that didn’t have anything to do with Carole Baskin.
Joe: On Joe Gone Wild or Joe Exotic TV?
Earley: Both.
Joe: On Joe Exotic TV, we had little kid shows, where we had little baby ducks and chickens and baby animals, and we taught kids about, you know, how long they stay in the egg and how they hatch and stuff like that. And then on Joe Gone Wild, I picked on Governor Kasich, I picked on PETA. I mean, we — it was about anybody that had issues with having animals in cages or zoos or anything or other facilities that thought that they could do things and we couldn’t.
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Earley: So when these — these videos that we saw here in court, would you agree that there was some pretty outrageous stuff going on in those videos?
Joe: There was some pretty outrageous stuff going on.
Earley: Was there a purpose behind those videos?
Joe: Yeah. In the animal world, if I could make you look like you’re an abuser — and — and Carole made this website called 911animalabuse.org, or .com, where she had 92 of us on this website. And her opinion, to get around free speech, was that it was her opinion that we abused baby tigers for allowing you to pet them. And the more that they can make you look bad, the more money they can raise because people think that you are going to stop them from doing that. So I could take any one of you tonight and put you on my website and say you chained a pit bull to your tree in your backyard, and you never feed him, and by midnight tonight I bet I could raise $2,000 on something that you’re not even doing wrong. In the animal industry, that’s the key way to raise money is they’ll put stuff on each other’s websites and badmouth people. And the more viewers you have, the more money you raise. And that’s — so the bad thing about that, though, is the Humane Society of the United States, you know, sent in spies and made videos about us. The PETA sent in spies, and we have got four FBI records to verify some of this. And they would send in spies to make videos, and they would put a video online and edit it and make it look like the Humane Society videos that you see on dogs shivering on TV right now. That’s all pre-made videos. OK? And we could do the same thing with tigers and lions. But what they do is they prey on the mentally unstable to carry out their crimes for them, and that is, to break into the zoo, cut the cages open at night. One morning, at 8 o’clock in the morning — our manager, John Reinke, has two prosthetic legs — and a man drove all the way from Mustang, Oklahoma, down there to cut the animals out of their cages and kill — kill John Reinke. And it took 29 minutes on 911 to get the first officer at the park. So a lot of the stuff that we portray on TV and our videos is to look like these dangerous psycho mutts that you didn’t want to break into our zoo in the middle of the night because we are armed, and we’re not going to tolerate you coming in and cutting our cages open. And that was our — our simple line of defense.
Earley: Now, in spite of the content of those shows, did you want Carole Baskin dead?
Joe: No.
Earley: Did Carole Baskin and your ongoing dispute with her actually help you in some strange way?
Joe: I — I didn’t know who Carole Baskin was until 2006, when I picked up a newspaper in Oklahoma City, and here’s this article about this trashy little roadside zoo, and it was me, and the person that they interviewed was Carole Baskin. And over the years, I would say we both probably made each other pretty famous.

 

[Carole Baskin]

 
Earley: What was Big Cat Rescue Entertainment?
Joe: OK. Big Cat Rescue Entertainment, I believe that come about 2009 maybe, somewhere around there. We had growed into two road shows, two 18-wheelers and a tour bus. And one 18-wheeler was the animal show, and one 18-wheeler was my illusions, my magic show. And some of the malls — we always did malls because it was easy to market and you were guaranteed customers because people came to the mall. OK. So some of the malls wanted just the animal show, and some wanted just the magic show, and some wanted both of them at the same time. So the animal show was Tigers In Need, and the magic show was Mystical Magic of the Endangered. Okay. And then whenever we both were at one location, instead of having two posters and confusing people and everything else, we came up with one name. Okay. And during that time, Big Cat Rescue had a program called Cat Whiz. Okay. And anytime you showed up somewhere, this program would flood the mall with 70, 80,000 emails and jam all of their computers up and their website up and everything else with this, “Oh, these people are so horrible to these baby tigers and this is abuse and you shouldn’t allow this.” OK. So I had a marketing director named Darren Stone that came up with the idea, well, if she’s going to send out 70,000 emails, let’s make everybody think that it’s her at the mall. So we called the Trade Commission and verified that she didn’t own the three words “Big Cat Rescue.” OK. She had a logo, and she only owned it with the tiger jumping over the logo. So he created a logo with Big Cat Rescue, and we used the eyeballs from a facility we had permission to in Colorado called Serenity Springs. OK. And when both shows were at one location, we used the word and — and the logo Big Cat Rescue Entertainment because it was magic, and it was with big cats. Made sense to us. And then everybody called back down to Florida and bitched at Carole. Was just a marketing way to pay back for flooding our clients with 70,000 emails.
Earley: OK. So as you were explaining that, my understanding would be that Big Cat Rescue, the Carole Baskin entity —

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Joe: Correct.
Earley: — they would contact the locations where you were doing a show and do this email flood; is that correct?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: OK. So your purpose in forming this entity, Big Cat Rescue Entertainment, was to kind of throw them off their game, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Earley: All right. Did you get sued by Ms. Baskin for that?
Joe: We got sued for trademark infringement, and then she testified the other day that she sued me for copyright infringement as well. And that had absolutely nothing to do with putting her face picture on anything. It was a picture that I got off of Facebook of three of her employees bashing rabbits in the head and bloody, dead rabbits to feed to the tigers and laughing about it. So kind of give her a little taste of her own medicine — and I sent that picture to every rabbit rescue in the country I could find, and she got a taste of her own medicine. So she went and bought the picture for $5 from the employee. Three months after I posted it, she filed a copyright and copyrighted it, and then she just out-moneyed me in a lawsuit.
Earley: Now, did she get a judgment from you — or against you?
Joe: Our lawyers at one point just said, you need to just quit spending bad money after bad money, and just give her a judgment of whatever she wants. And so she got a million-dollar judgment. And we didn’t expect her to move that judgment to Oklahoma. So she moved that judgment to Oklahoma, and my lawyers recommended just filing bankruptcy on the judgment, and she sued the bankruptcy court as well.
Earley: All right. So that initial lawsuit, the trademark and the copyright, those were being litigated in Florida; is that correct?
Joe: That’s where it started, yes, sir.
Earley: All right. And before the case was moved here for collection, were you required to litigate the case in the state of Florida?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: So did it become pretty costly?
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Joe: We have — we spent close to a quarter-million dollars.
Earley: All right. Now, did that judgment affect you and the zoo at that time?
Joe: As in how?
Earley: Financially.
Joe: We — we spent a lot of money on lawyers, but we kept operating.
Earley: All right. Now, aside from the — the lawsuits and the judgment that Ms. Baskin has against you, what’s your problem with her?
Joe: My problem is she’s a hypocrite. You know, just like some of her other facilities in her — within her little organization she’s created. Her facility is in the middle of Tampa, Florida. It’s right next to a major highway. She sells every kind of tour under the sun: Bone tour, feeding tour, kid tour, adult tour. It doesn’t matter. I mean, I have taken one of her tours. Her animals are on exhibit. She can complain one month in public, writing that there’s too many tigers in America, and then the next month she’s rescuing one from Peru because there’s none in America that can hold a good story to raise donations, so she’s bringing in this tiger from Peru. And she’ll drive clear across the United States to rescue a baby bobcat because baby animals raise money better because everybody likes baby everything, especially if you’re going to rescue one. So there’s absolutely nothing except petting animals, which she used to do before she made her millions, that — that we do any different than she does, except she wants to make every state illegal except Florida so she can corner the market on exhibiting tigers.
Earley: Now, did you have any disagreements with her position on certain legislation?
Joe: I — I’m probably one of the biggest, most outspoken critics of her legislation push that she’s — she’s continuing to push because — like the Big Cat Safety Act that they are trying to introduce right now, her organization that she started, which is the global federation of animal sanctuaries, is the only one exempt from this law they’re trying to introduce. And the way that they’re doing this is by making political donations to different politicians in order to get these laws passed. But the big thing was in Ohio, when Zanesville, Ohio, happened with Terry Thompson, the guy that supposedly let all of his animals out and shot himself and killed himself in Zanesville, Ohio. And that right there is what started the controversy of — I knew Terry and that wasn’t something Terry would have done, especially if you love your animals because you know they’re going to be massacred the minute you open the door and let them run. Not to mention that I do investigative reporting because I’m a member of the United States Press, and I belly-crawled that farm to do my story. And to this day I don’t believe that he killed himself. It was what they needed in order to make exotic animal owners look crazy and passed a law in Ohio to make it illegal to own exotic animals. So after they started that, I testified in front of the Senate and in front of the House on — to try and stop that bill that they were pushing through. And they got it pushed through, and they sent SWAT teams in peoples’ homes and they took their animals, and Carole’s organization got quarter-million dollar contracts to move animals from Ohio to California, and from Ohio to Florida to their facilities, which are absolutely no different than the facilities they were taking them from, except they came with quarter-million dollar contracts of taxpayer money. And that’s why I went after John Kasich, Governor Kasich.
Earley: So these disagreements that you were having with Ms. Baskin about legislation, about what you did, did those things get incorporated into your — your on-air shows, so to speak?
Joe: Absolutely. Big time, because we raised money for peoples’ lawyers over in Ohio and everywhere else in the United States that were fighting laws. And we used the TV show to educate the general public, such as you, of what’s going on. And — and you have a right under the Constitution of the United States to own personal property. And, unfortunately, tigers and lions and animals are personal property.
Earley: And you may have already spoken to this, but with respect to your on-air antics, did the viewership go up the nuttier it all got?
Joe: When we first started out, our — our viewership was pathetic because people just got bored with the same antics every day. OK. And that’s where we tried the Joe Gone Wild thing, and we started getting 60, 70,000 viewers a night, and it went into the millions. And the last time I saw the counter on our YouTube was we had 64 million viewers from all over the world that would sit up at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning their time just to watch our show at 7 o’clock our time. And the crazier it got, the more money we raised and the more people watched. And that flowed over even to my political thing is — I tried to be serious in politics, and I got no support, and the more outlandish I got, the more real I got, the more support I got.
Earley: Now, as far as the park is concerned, did you discuss your difficulties with Ms. Baskin at the park?
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Joe: I — I never spoke to Carole Baskin at the park. The only time I have ever spoke to Ms. Baskin was face-to-face in Ohio at one of the hearings, and I never even spoke to her during any of the depositions. It was always Mr. Howard.
Earley: But as far as your problem that you were having with her, either legal or philosophical, did you talk about those things with people at your park?
Joe: Oh, every — every day.
Earley: All right. So who would be involved in those conversations?
Joe: You know, the staff, at morning meetings or night meetings or the management in the office. It was no secret that, you know, we’re being sued, we’re being watched. And you never know which employee is a plant because she had a bad habit of hiring spies, and she had no problem bragging about that on her website. So we — we discussed, you know, what was right and what was wrong going on at the park that — that we needed to be careful with.
Earley: Now, did you ever mention to park employees that you wish Carole Baskin was dead?
Joe: You know, there was — there was never a time that I wished she was dead. There was many times of — and I say this about a lot of people — is I don’t understand why — you know, I was — I was raised to believe in God, and I don’t understand why little kids have to suffer so bad, and people that treat people like that just get to live on and on and on without ever being in a car wreck or something like that, and — and why so many little kids have to suffer.
Earley: Did you yourself get death threats?
Joe: I had many death threats, and I turned them in to the sheriff’s office. We sent them in to the FBI. I actually have the — the FBI agent’s number on my cell phone from the Norman office.
Earley: All right. Now, was your ability to run the park impaired somewhat in 2014?
Joe: I was extremely ill. I threw up for 188 days. And I went to the doctors and my T-cell count was off the chart, and my white blood cell count was off the chart. So they automatically thought I had AIDS. And I took nine HIV tests within probably four months, and every one of them came back negative. So the next step was to think that I had cancer. And so they did several tests, and we never got to a PET scan, but they did prostate surgery on me on October the 21st of 2014. And all of my — I did that at Baptist Hospital, and two days later all of my organs quit. I went into kidney and liver failure and spent almost 37 days in ICU and in the hospital there. And the doctors actually gave me — because I would not take dialysis, the doctors gave me two days to live. So they did all they could with IVs and stuff. And I sat there and made God a deal because I had a really bad breakup with John Finlay, and I was just an ugly person at that time. And I made a deal with God that if he let me walk out of that hospital, that I would completely change my attitude. And He let me walk out of that hospital, and I practically raised John Finlay’s daughter. And to this day, me and her are connected at the hip. And from that time on I — we quit the Joe Exotic Gone Wild, and I tried to do what was right.
Earley: Now, did that cause you to reflect on whether or not you were able to run this park by yourself?
Joe: Well, I — it was no secret on social media that — that I was in rough shape. I was on IVs for the next year. While I was at work, I carried an IV bag with me. I did my shows with IVs in my arms. And a gentleman by the name of Jeff Lowe contacted me on Facebook. He had tigers in South Carolina. And we got to talking, and he ended up buying a baby tiliger from me. So him and his original wife, Cathy, came to the park and picked up the baby tiliger and stayed for an hour or so, and then they left. OK. And then I get this phone call from this reporter out in South Carolina that said that Jeff Lowe said that he owned tigers in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, and in Colorado. And I was like, there is nobody that owns tigers in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, except me. So we kind of had a little disagreement there. And then he started to buy a facility out in Colorado. And that was when me and Travis Maldonado got married. And Jeff flew us out to his place to see his house and the facility that he was working on buying and — and we went skydiving for our honeymoon. And he had this gigantic house. I mean, it was a mansion, and it had an indoor swimming pool in it and a Ferrari in the driveway and a Hummer and flashing money. And — and he asked me if I wanted to sell the zoo. And I didn’t exactly want to sell the zoo, but I said, “Hey, I’m open for a partner, you know.” And I had IVs in my arm at the time when we flew out there and — and he knew I was sick, and I was concerned whether or not I was actually going to make it or not. So we had talked about Carole and the lawsuits. And my mom and dad were adamant that my brothers and sisters were not going to get possession of that property in order to sell it, and tear it apart if something happened to me or mom and dad. So Jeff talked me into putting his name — having mom put his name on the deed of the land, a quitclaim deed. And then through the lawsuits with Carole, she had always said that — my life insurance policies were being paid by the zoo, so she had a judgment against the original zoo. So if I was to die, the judgment should get my million-dollar life insurance policies, OK, to pay off the judgment, since they were paying the premiums. So Jeff talked me into putting him on as 25 percent of the life insurance and he would pay the premiums, so that way the zoo was out of my life insurance, and it was in Jeff’s hands. So, yeah, I — I thought — I just took him for face value, and I thought, you know, these — this man’s got all this money, he can take care of the animals if something happened to me, and he was going to buy this place out in Colorado and help the place in Oklahoma. And so we went home. And he called me again and asked if we wanted to come out for a Halloween party. So we flew — he flew us back there for a Halloween party. And by then his name was already on the land, and his name was already on all the health insurance and all that. And that’s when I got the first taste of how he treated his — his original wife. We came —
Earley: Let me back up for one minute because I want to go back to something you said a little bit earlier. When you originally met him, you said that he purchased a baby tiliger.
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Joe: Correct.
Earley: What’s a tiliger?

 

[Tiliger]

 
Joe: Amongst everything else I do, I am the only person on this planet who has produced a liger, a tiliger, a liliger and a tigon. And I worked very closely with the scientists of the National Institute of Health and Texas A&M, providing DNA testing and umbilical cords so they can study big cats and how they evolved and how they’re going to handle the climate change and stuff. And a tiliger is a tiger — and you can do it in different colors; you can use a white tiger; you can use an orange tiger or a tabby tiger or a snow tiger — and you breed that with a female liger and you get a tiliger. And the color variation depends on what color of father you use. For years it was believed that ligers are sterile, and it’s only male ligers that are sterile, not female ligers. But the trick is you can’t put two adults together or they’re going to kill each other, so you have to raise them together. And that takes five years before they become fertile enough and adult enough to breed, but the discrimination between the two species is gone. And that’s why nobody does it because there’s no money in it because you have to wait five years in between each step. And I’m the only person in America that has made that fourth step — actually, I’m the only person in the world that has made that fourth step, because after you hybrid them four times, the males are no longer sterile. It’s just like a bengal cat or a Savannah cat that’s bred with exotic animals. OK. And the theory that the animal rights people like to use out there is they outgrow their bones. I think you have heard that in here before. OK. Or they’re deformed or they’re too big for their parents. There has never been a recorded incident in our world of a hybrid cat born with a genetic flaw. OK. A lot of people confuse genetics and birth defects, OK, as — as the same thing, and it’s not. A birth defect happens from being cramped in the womb or something like that versus a genetic defect that is actually passed down a blood line.
Earley: Now, you sold this to Mr. Lowe; is that right?
Joe: I did.
Earley: Was it legal to sell that?
Joe: It’s absolutely legal to sell any hybrid.
Earley: Now, Mr. Lowe has managed to kind of get into your business at this point; is that right?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: Were you still in the process of litigation with Carole Baskin?
Joe: Yes, sir.

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Earley: Were you, at this time when Mr. Lowe starts to get on the scene, still in settlement talks with the Baskins?
Joe: When we were out there for Halloween, for his Halloween party, when we flew back to Oklahoma City, we stayed in Oklahoma City that night because the next morning I had mediation with Howard Baskin, and we spent 10 or 11 hours in — in mediation. And me and Howard actually had it worked out to where he was going to allow me to continue for the year, and then we would stop cub petting and we’d stop breeding and we would simply slowly close the zoo down. But I needed to make sure that we could pay our outstanding bills, you know, throughout that period, and he understood that. So at the end of the day, we had come to an agreement to do all of this until he picked up the phone and called Carole. And part of that was a $5,000 payment every month toward the settlement, OK, toward the judgment. OK. But the thing that we were worried about was we are cutting our funding of play cages and everything else to make that $5,000 payment. And in case we couldn’t, Carole wanted my mom and dad’s house and property that was completely paid for. And that’s when the lawyer stepped in and said, absolutely not. So that kind of went to — went to crap.
Earley: About what time period is this going on?
Joe: November of 2015.
Earley: All right. So in early 2016, who took over as the owner of the park?
Joe: Late February of 2015, Jeff Lowe created —
Earley: ’15 or ’16?
Joe: ’16. I’m sorry. Created three companies: One was the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, which operated the zoo; one was called Big Cat Institute, which was supposed to be a nonprofit that trained interns to do what we do — it turned out to be nothing but a way to hide payroll. The third one was the Greater Wynnewood Development Group, which was in charge of the land.
Earley: All right. So who actually owned the zoo after February of 2016?
Joe: Jeff Lowe.

 

[Jeff and Lauren Lowe]

 
Earley: Now, did the name of the park change?

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Joe: It did. It was — it was the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park until February when they — the board voted to dissolution and close it.
Earley: Was there a reason behind the name change?
Joe: Well, in order to shut one organization down and escape the — another judgment, it closed and had to, by law, change the name to open up another organization. So Carole would have to start the lawsuits all over again.
Earley: At least that was the thought?
Joe: That was the thought.
Earley: Now, had Lowe already got his name onto the insurance policies at this time?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: Who all was on those policies?
Joe: It was Jeff Lowe; in 2016, it was my husband, Travis Maldonado; and then 25 percent went to John’s little girl Kimberlin.
Earley: All right. What was your role at the park after Lowe took over?
Joe: Entertainment director.
Earley: And what did that mean as far as your daily work?
Joe: Well, the — the park had been basically branded with my face for 20 years, close to 20 years. So I put on all the shows. I did the big tours twice a day at 11:30 and 2:30 every day. I did the ordering. Most of the merchandise was all private labeled with my picture on it and my name. The bad part was my license was — was there, along with Beth Corley’s license and Trey Key’s license and Ryan Easley’s license. And Jeff didn’t have a license there at that time because his license was still in South Carolina, but his cats were there. So we put all of his cats under my license, not Beth Corley’s license. They were under my license. And the reason for that was is because he knew that I wanted to quit. OK. So it didn’t matter how many noncompliant citations we got from the USDA under my license, it wasn’t going to affect anybody else because I was going to turn my license in eventually because I wanted out of it. So almost everything that we did had to be under my license, whether I owned the animals or not.
Earley: So how close in time to when Jeff Lowe took over had you started having these thoughts about “I’m on my way out”?
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Joe: Well, they moved to Wynnewood the last part of November of 2015, and they didn’t have a place to stay. They were in a hotel for —
Earley: Who is “they”?
Joe: Jeff and Lauren. They left Cathy in Colorado that time because Jeff got arrested for beating her up. So they had to rush out of Colorado. OK. So they moved in my house with me and Travis, and they stayed there for probably two, three months. And that’s when I found out everything in Colorado was rented. He didn’t own nothing. He was behind on his payments on the Ferrari and the house was rented. He skipped out on the lease of the house. And by that time it was already too late because his name was on everything in Wynnewood. So I went to Tampa, Florida, to do a music video. I think it was in March of 2016. And I did a music video with elephants there at the Two Tail Ranch, and then I was a speaker at a convention called Take Back the Conversation convention there in Tampa. And then I had a political rally at the same time, then I came home. And I came home and sat in the office and wanted to quit. I was just going to walk away at that point. And he talked me into staying there. OK. So he builds this little cabin out of storage buildings and — for him and Lauren to move into. So they finally move into their own cabin. And by that time the criminal side started coming out, and I started seeing what kind of scams they’re running and — and they turned the park into a front for his criminal side. And then it turned into their own little private hunting ranch of young girls, and it just escalated from there until I just couldn’t stomach it anymore.
Earley: Now, about this time did Allen Glover show up on the scene?
Joe: Allen showed up, I want to think it was probably April of 2016. He came from South Carolina. He had worked for Jeff out there with some liquidation companies or some — some liquidation stores or something. But anyway, he came to work at the zoo as a yard guy.
Earley: All right. Was he your employee?
Joe: He made it very clear he wasn’t my employee.
Earley: OK. Now, was Lowe at the park on a daily basis?
Joe: They lived on the — on the park, and he was pretty much at the park all the time through 2016. And that’s where they started — they had a little old lady in town that made clothes for the funeral home. And Jeff, in his liquidation history, somehow or another got ahold of some — of the singer Prince’s outfits and got sued by Prince.
Amanda Maxfield-Green, Assistant US Attorney: Your Honor, may we approach?
US District Judge Scott L. Palk: You may.

 

[Judge Scott L. Palk]

(The following bench conference was held outside the hearing of the jury.)

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Maxfield-Green: Your Honor, I think we’re starting down a line of Mr. Passage — he has a lot of what he believes are criminal allegations against Jeff Lowe that are totally unfounded and have — there’s no evidentiary support for at all. He does not — there’s no good faith basis or extrinsic evidence available to offer any of that, not that it would be admissible anyway. And I just don’t think we can go down the line of let’s bring out every theory we have about Jeff Lowe’s criminal — we have already had — he’s already said — made comments about him beating up his wife and the young girls at the park. And I think we’re just headed down a road here that is: A, irrelevant under Rule 401; and, B, prejudicial, a waste of time, speculative, and a variety of other things under Rule 403.
Judge Palk: Well, what immediately comes to mind is the question was is Mr. Lowe at the park very often, and then I don’t know how that got to Prince, but — all right. Mr. Earley, I’ll give you a chance to respond.
Earley: Well, that was not the answer that I was seeking to solicit, but I will go back and maybe rephrase the question.
Judge Palk: And I’m going to ask him to think about your questions, and please answer your questions and then if you have additional inquiry you will ask. The objection is sustained.

(The following record was made in open court, in the presence of all parties, counsel, and in the presence and hearing of the jury.)

Judge Palk: Mr. Passage, I want to ask you to listen very carefully to your lawyer’s question and only answer that question. I think the question that Mr. Earley had asked you was whether or not Mr. Lowe was at the park very often. Please just answer his question. And then if Mr. Earley has — wants additional information, he’ll ask you some followup questions. OK?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Judge Palk: Thank you.
Earley: All right. I believe you did answer that question, that he was there pretty much daily. Would that be fair to say?
Joe: Through 2016, yes, sir.
Earley: All right. And during that period of time was there an off-site business with respect to either animal petting or a show that Mr. Lowe was involved with?
Joe: That started, I believe, along about March of 2017. He had a place in Oklahoma City called the Neon Jungle.
Earley: All right. And was that basically just an offshoot of the business down there in Wynnewood?
Joe: It was set up in a — in a mall there in Oklahoma City to play with baby tigers, yes, sir.

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Earley: All right. Now, as far as Mr. Lowe is concerned, and his activities, did he eventually move out of state for long periods of time?
Joe: March, April — March through June is when the Neon Jungle was there. And he hooked up with this lady from Las Vegas in the middle of that and started human trafficking in Las Vegas.
Judge Palk: Mr. Passage, again, the question was did he eventually move out of state for long periods of time. I want you to listen to the lawyer’s questions and answer those questions.
Joe: He did.
Earley: And where did he go?
Joe: Las Vegas.
Earley: All right. And as it concerns the park’s business, and I mean animal business, what was your understanding of what Mr. Lowe was doing out in Las Vegas?
Joe: He was supposed to go out there and — and open up a company called The Jungle Bus and —
Earley: And what was that supposed to be?

 

 
Joe: It was supposed to be where people could pay to get on this bus with the animals on the bus and go on, like, an hour or two-hour drive and play with the animals on the bus, kind of like you would a party bus.
Earley: All right. Now, as far as his business interest out in Las Vegas, was that contributing substantially to the park’s income?

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Joe: It didn’t contribute at all.
Earley: Now, I think you testified that you considered leaving the park after Lowe got ingrained in it in 2016; is that correct?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: Did your desire to remain at the park change in 2017?
Joe: It did.
Earley: What changed?
Joe: The — the more that they used the park as a front for everything, the more the meaning of it being a memorial park and representing people that have died went away. And it just — the whole morals of what we worked 20 years for is — was gone.
Earley: So you were even more inclined to get out of the business at that point?
Joe: Absolutely.
Earley: All right. I want to switch gears with you for just a moment and address some of the specific counts in the indictment. OK?
Joe: OK.
Earley: And the first set of counts I want to address are Counts 8, and then 9 through 11. So Count 8, if you recall, concerns an offer for sale to, I think it was Darlene Cervantes; is that correct?
Joe: Correct.
Earley: Do you remember that testimony?
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Joe: Yes.
Earley: All right. And with respect to that particular text exchange you had with Ms. Cervantes, explain that to the jury.
Joe: Well, I have 19 Facebooks because they limit you to 5,000 friends. So my office people would run all of my Facebooks and answer my messages for me because I had to be out on the park most of the time. So I was in the office one day and Darlene, who is kind of out there anyway, asked me if — if she could buy a tiger. And that’s when I asked her if she had a USDA license and asked her which state and all that. And I went to work and — and Amber continued that conversation via a radio because we carried radios. So it was between me and Amber. But the easiest way — and I probably have done this a thousand times in the history of this park and being on the road — is somebody always walks up and say, how much would a tiger cost me. And the easiest way to end the conversation is jack up a price to where you know they can’t afford it, and the conversation ended right there and you didn’t have to go through all of the legalities and spend 30 minutes with everybody that wanted to buy a tiger. So, you know, I would — I told her a thousand bucks because she was homeless. She didn’t have a thousand dollars and I knew that conversation would stop. No different than a conversation at a magic show when I tell people it was $20,000, because you know they ain’t got it, and the conversation just ended right there.
Earley: So was it your intention to offer these cubs for sale to Darlene Cervantes?
Joe: Pardon?
Earley: Was it your intention to offer those cubs for sale to Darlene?
Joe: No. It was my intention to just say a price and she’d go away, which she did.
Earley: Now, Counts 9 through 11 concerned a number of what Mr. Finlay, I think, determined were sales. Count 9, November 16, 2016, a male tiger cub to Brown Zoo in Illinois. Do you recall that?
Joe: I recall — I recall that.
Earley: All right. Was that a zoo-to-zoo transfer?
Joe: It was.
Earley: What kind of license do you have?
Joe: I have a Class C exhibitor’s license by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Animal Welfare Act, which allows me the right to exhibit, breed, sell and transfer. Because they only have three licenses: And it’s an exhibitor’s license, which does it all; a breeder’s license that only allows you to breed and sell; or a broker’s license so you can be the middleman in between all the sales.
Earley: Mr. Finlay testified that, I guess in his opinion, the transaction or this zoo-to-zoo transfer was a sale. What is your testimony with respect to this transaction?
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Joe: I don’t remember every transaction, but, I mean, it could have been. But can I explain the forms?
Earley: Sure.
Joe: OK. Under my license, I had peoples’ animals that were from Louisiana; I had Jeff’s animals; I had some of my animals; I had some of the circus animals because in order for them to be at the zoo and us be open to the public, it doesn’t matter who owns them, you could bring your bobcat to my zoo, and I could exhibit it and it still remain yours, but it’s got to be on my inventory in order to be legal. OK. So anytime an animal or a baby tiger or anything was taken off of my inventory, it has to come from Joe Maldonado. OK. It can’t come from you in Louisiana, because you’re not an exhibitor. I’m the exhibitor, even though it’s under my license and you own the animal. OK. So it’s got to be from me to the Brown Zoo. All right. And I don’t sell that. I didn’t sell that. Jeff, the owner of the zoo, sold those. So that’s why they say donation on there, because I transferred them off of my license to someone else for no charge, and he made the sale between them and him. And from day one, when I knew what he was all about, I kept ledgers of my own to verify every dollar and every sale. And I logged in QuickBooks; I earmarked every deposit that was made from cubs so I could defend myself one day.
Earley: With respect to Count 10, that is a tiger female, 11 weeks old, to TS in Indiana. Do you recall that transaction?
Joe: That one would be Tim Stark, and I remember that one very well.

 

[Tim Stark]

 
Earley: All right. So was that the sale in interstate commerce?
Joe: That one was actually free. Depending on your inspector — our inspector allowed us to use cubs between four weeks and 16 weeks. Tim Stark’s inspector’s only allowed him to use cubs up to 12 weeks old. And that’s the problem with the vague laws is every inspector can read into what they want it to read in. So the zoo made him a deal, if he took this one that was 11 weeks old that he could only use for one week, we would give him a younger one for free, and that would get a bigger one out of our zoo that we didn’t have to grow up and feed for the rest of his life.
Earley: All right.
Joe: So that was not a sale.
Earley: And then also Count 11 is March 6, 2018, tiger, female, six weeks old, again to Brown’s, which is referred to as Oakridge Zoo in Illinois. Is that the same Brown’s?
Joe: It is the same folks.

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Earley: So the same as Count 9. Do you recall that?
Joe: Without looking at my notes in QuickBooks and verifying that deposit, but I would probably say it probably was.
Earley: A sale?
Joe: Probably so.
Earley: By who?
Joe: By the zoo.
Earley: But not you?
Joe: Not me.
Earley: So if I’m understanding you correctly — and — of course, we don’t know what Brown’s or Tim — TS, whoever that is, has to say about this, but you are simply passing them off of your inventory to another zoo’s inventory by creating the paperwork that’s associated with this; is that correct?
Joe: Yes, sir. And we did that with Beth Corley’s inventory as well.
Earley: All right. And so whether or not this was being sold or someone was providing a donation back for the animal, that was between Mr. Lowe and that entity; is that correct?
Joe: Correct.
Earley: All right. So that’s the substance of your testimony as to why you’re not selling anything, correct?
Joe: I didn’t sell anything and I didn’t collect a dime for myself, no. It all went in his bank account.
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Earley: So if Mr. Finlay, after one or all of these trips, came back with cash or check or however these people may have been paying, what — and he handed it over to you, is that what happened?
Joe: He would either give it to me, or if I wasn’t there he’d give it to one of the girls in the office.
Earley: What would happen to the money from there?
Joe: It would be put on a deposit slip for the park, and on the very bottom I would write “Jeff” so I knew what — where the money come from, and I would put it in the bank and I would log it in QuickBooks as “cash Jeff.”
Earley: All right. I want to talk a little bit now about Counts 12 through 20, and these are labeled in the indictment as Lacy Act false labeling of wildlife charges. Do you remember the substance of the testimony concerning these allegations against you?
Joe: Is that the vet certificates or the forms?
Earley: The forms and the — the certificate of veterinary inspection.
Joe: I believe I do.
Earley: All right. Now, I don’t really plan to go through each one of these individually with you, but, in substance, with the exception of one of the counts, which involves a CVI form and we’ll talk about that separately.
Joe: OK.
Earley: But these are all counts dealing with what is alleged to be a falsification of those delivery and receipt forms. Do you understand that?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: All right. So with respect to those particular allegations, tell us about your understanding of the forms and the information that’s required.
Joe: The form is simply, like I explained before, to get it off of inventory. That’s all the USDA cares about is where the animal ended up. OK. We were supposed to get where it’s coming from, where it’s going to, both of our license numbers, the animal information of what species it was, what sex it was, approximately how old it was and what condition it’s in, and then who transported it and how it was transported, if it was transported. And that’s all they required. And we got some of those on napkins from people. I mean, they didn’t even put them on actual pieces of paper.
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Earley: Well, there were forms that were introduced. Do you recall these?
Joe: I do.
Earley: And, I mean, were those your forms?
Joe: The ones — OK. Which ones are you talking about that were introduced?
Earley: For example, the delivery form that went to Brown’s Zoo.
Joe: OK. Those were the zoo ‘s forms, yes.
Earley: All right. So the delivery forms would have been developed by who?
Joe: Whatever secretary was in the office that created them on Microsoft Word.
Earley: All right. Now, there are — on some of the forms there’s little boxes to check for sale, donation, exchange; on others there’s nothing, but there appears to be something written on them about it’s a donation. Explain — explain how that happens.
Joe: How it gets written on there or how the forms are different?
Earley: How the forms are different.
Joe: It depends on — it was like whoever works in the office, gives themselves the title as the office manager, redoes everything. Every time you hire one, they had to redo everything. And some of the forms would — would come out with the boxes on there. But what never made sense was if you put “sale” on there, it never asked you how much you sold it for. And it wasn’t required on the — on the official form for the USDA, so nobody really paid any attention to that. And the reason why it was always written “donation” on there is because the person that had the license never got the money. So the people whose license it was actually did donate it.
Earley: Do you know why those options were even provided or why that word was written on there if it wasn’t required?
Joe: I think — I think Jeff and Lauren had done one inspection one time while I wasn’t at the zoo, and the inspector talked to them about something, and they had the office girl redo the forms.
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Earley: All right. To your knowledge, is that information, whether it was a sale, an exchange or a donation, is that information required by the United States Department of Agriculture?
Joe: No.
Earley: Now, Count 18 is the certificate of veterinary inspection. Have you seen those forms before?
Joe: I have.
Earley: And how are those forms created?
Joe: Those stay at the veterinarian office and either me or Reinke or one of the girls in the office would call the vet and give them what — you know, the animal, the sex, the species, how old it is. And — and then either Reinke — Reinke done most of it, John Reinke, as far as running the animal over to the vet so Dr. Green can see it and then finish the exam, and bring back the pink copy that we give the receiver at the other end. So after the transaction is completely done, we don’t even have a copy of the certificate of veterinarian because the vet keeps one to send to the state, she keeps one for her records, and the pink one goes to the people to prove that they got it at that end. There was — there was times that we would be actually in a cage with an animal and we would be calling on the radio to the office the information for them to call in to the — to the vet. And in 20 years, I don’t ever remember telling a vet whether it was an exchange, a donation or an exhibition or transfer. We never even — we never even discussed that ever.

 

[John Reinke]

 
Earley: Well, with respect to Count 18, the June 12th, 2018, form that Dr. Green testified about, did you advise her to place “donation” or any other type of exchange on that form?
Joe: Which animals are on there?
Earley: It’s an African lion, male, eight years old, and an African lion, female, eight years old.
Joe: I did not even call that one in. I had nothing to do with that one or the transfer form.
Earley: All right. That was in June — specifically, the form is dated June 12th, 2018.

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Joe: Correct.
Earley: Were you at the park that day?
Joe: I was at the park, yes, sir.
Earley: But you don’t recall having anything to do with the information?
Joe: I know I didn’t.
Earley: Now, finally, with respect to the false labeling allegations, there’s Count 21. And you may recall that is a form that you were asked by Mr. Garretson to generate. Do you remember that?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: Do you remember that particular interaction with Mr. Garretson?
Joe: I don’t remember it except for watching the video.
Earley: OK. So tell us about what you remember, why you created the form, what the situation was with that.
Joe: Apparently, by watching the video — and to this day, all I can do is be honest, I don’t even remember that — that video. But he had asked for a copy of a disposition form for his lemur. OK. And at that time he had a gentleman work for him that stole all of his records and a bunch of other equipment, and he was having trouble finding all of his receipts from where his animals came from. And he had previously purchased a lemur from us, and that’s why on the video I say, is this one the one we lost, because I thought he was needing one to replace the one that we lost. And so apparently he said, no, it’s the one from Omar. And I wasn’t even thinking about an animal coming across state lines being an endangered lemur. I was more thinking because he was in a hurry, because he claimed that he was going to be inspected by the USDA, and he just needed to show that he had a lemur on a disposition form. It wasn’t to get around the Fish & Wildlife or anything, because in 20 years I have never seen them people. So it was just for that form. And then I walked over, on the video, and Xeroxed it so we had a copy of it, which even confuses me more because my inspector knows exactly how many animals I got and what animals I got. And I would have not figured out how I would have covered having a lemur, because he has the same inspector. So the whole damn thing was confusing to me. I can’t really answer why the hell I did that. I’m sorry about my language.
Earley: Well, did you create that form to create a false record to try to fool the USDA somehow?
Joe: Apparently I did.
Earley: Now, before we get into the remaining counts in the indictment, I want to talk to you a little bit about late summer of 2017 and then going into the fall. What was your relationship with Mr. Lowe like at that time? How would you describe it?
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Joe: He was in Vegas primarily, most of the time. And it was really rocky because we got to know him and James real well. They talked to each other, and James comes to the park and they — they just constantly are tape-recording each other and tape-recording everybody they talk to, and it’s just like a big circle of drama. And every time I would talk to James about how bad I couldn’t stand Lauren and what was going on with all of the illegal stuff and — and Vegas draining that zoo and money, he would play that to Jeff. And within a couple of hours of talking to James, I would get a phone call getting an ass-chewing from Jeff of why I’m talking about his wife or why I’m bitching about money and so forth. So it was — it was pretty rocky.
Earley: OK.
Judge Palk: Mr. Earley, is this a logical time for us to take our lunch break or —
Earley: It’s as good a time as any, yes.
Judge Palk: OK. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we will take our — counsel approach for just a moment…Ladies and gentlemen, what we’ll do today for our lunch break — and this will prevent a premature or a long break and having you guys wait in the afternoon — I’m going to give you a little bit longer break today for lunch. We’ll do an hour and a half for lunch. That will permit us to be able to get back here before you, take care of some things before you return, and then that way we’ll just sail through the rest of the day without having to have an interruption. That’s me knocking wood. So that being said, we’ll — ladies and gentlemen, for an hour and a half. Again, the admonition applies. Court will remain in attendance while the jury leaves.

(Lunch break….)

Judge Palk: Ladies and gentlemen, how are we doing on temperature? I have gotten reports that it is cold in here, but, you know, this robe’s like a parka so sometimes I’m a little oblivious to that. Are you-all cold? Little mixed bag? Maybe we’ll make a little minor adjustment and see how that goes. Mr. Earley, you may proceed.
Earley: Mr. Passage, I think we left off with your relationship with Mr. Lowe, but I want to back up just for a moment to go back to what we were discussing before, and that’s Counts 12 through 21. Now, with respect to Government Exhibit 12, I believe this deals with Count 19 in a delivery form. Do you recognize that?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: All right. Now, is this your handwriting on the form?
Joe: Yes, it is.
Earley: And were you involved in the transaction itself?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: All right. Tell us about that.

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Joe: This was right at the time that I was actually leaving the zoo for good. And I had this pair of lions that we were donating to the Animal Haven Zoo up in Wisconsin. And we — what I done was I billed them for the two drivers and the gasoline and the truck to get — to take them up there, and I — if I remember right, it was $3,200. And we ended up blowing an engine on one of the trucks and we had to send another truck to go get that truck and another driver to go up there and rescue the other drivers. And we finally got it all done. But anyway, by the time it was all over with, we didn’t even make any money to pay the gas and stuff to get it all done. And that is part of what our license allows me to do. It’s the same as if I had FedEx do it or American Airlines or anybody else. They would have charged the people for the gas and the trouble to go up there and back because they couldn’t come get them.
Earley: So was this form inaccurate with respect to any information on it?
Joe: Absolutely not.
Earley: Could you pull up Government Exhibit 13? Now, this is Count 20, which deals with the form associated with the delivery to Branson Wild World, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Earley: Do you remember the testimony about that?
Joe: From who?
Earley: Mr. Finlay, I believe.

 

[John Finlay]

 
Joe: I remember him saying that he’s the one that delivered these, yes, sir.
Earley: And that there was some money that was counted out and — I think by his girlfriend at the time. Do you recall that?
Joe: Yes, sir.

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Earley: OK. What about this form? Is that your handwriting?
Joe: No. This is not mine. And actually, I wasn’t even in the state of Oklahoma when this transfer was done.
Earley: All right. Did you have any participation in getting this transfer arranged?
Joe: I did. Before I left the state — and we’ll probably get into that later because I was threatened is the reason why I left for a few days — Branson Wildlife Park wanted to purchase the serval and the African cat and the bats and everything else. And because I was leaving the park, we had a bunch of babies that I had to get rid of because Jeff couldn’t take care of them without killing them, and nobody else at the park could raise them being that little. All right. So I told Jim with Branson Wildlife Park on the telephone that I had some baby lions that I would give him because they were illegal to sell baby lions. Since he was buying the bats and everything else, if he would take these babies because the rent house that I had up in Yukon at the time ready to go to, we couldn’t have the tigers or lions up there in the rent house. So technically, if you really want to complain about this form, it should have said donate and sell instead of whoever filled this out and just hit the donate box, because everything on there was sold except for the two lion cubs.
Earley: All right. Now, I believe your testimony right before we broke was that in the summer of 2017 your relationship with Mr. Lowe was pretty rocky.
Joe: Very rocky.
Earley: All right. What was your relationship with Mr. Garretson like at this time?
Joe: Me and — me and James was never friends or close friends. And I referred to him as a giant Chucky Doll because he’s just eerie all the time. He’s always up to no good. Everything he done was criminal. And him and Jeff were tight, they were very tight in everything they did. So mine and his relationship, there was none.
Earley: All right. Now, what about Mr. Glover? We haven’t really talked about him. What was your relationship like with Allen Glover?
Joe: We hated each other.
Earley: Was there any time that you-all kind of got along?
Joe: You know, he helped me with Travis’s memorial for a few days, and that’s probably about the only time we got along.
Earley: All right. What was your problem with Mr. Glover?
Joe: Well, I mean, constantly drunk, would not come to a staff meeting, sleeping with my mother-in-law, both of them doing meth. I had to fire her from smoking meth in the commissary. He just wouldn’t listen. And he came with Jeff and they don’t know anything about the Oklahoma weather, and he just starts chopping trees down and bamboo down, and this is protection that the animals need from the wintertime, and it was October. And — and he just wouldn’t listen to anything.
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Earley: Well, why didn’t you fire him?
Joe: I couldn’t fire him. He was — they made that pretty clear, that he worked for Jeff. And in his testimony you heard that he had nobody to save him all the time, like I was going to hurt him or something.
Earley: Now, during this time period, did you believe that maybe there was something going on between Lowe and Garretson as far as it affected you and the park?
Joe: Well, I mean, it started out that they were — they were manufacturing fake Prince clothes in the office and —
Earley: But —
Joe: I mean, all of that is why we didn’t get along, everything they done criminal at the park.
Earley: OK. But did you think that they were spending a lot of time together?
Joe: They spent a bunch of time together.
Earley: All right. And with respect to, you know, anything that subsequently happened, were you aware that they were talking with each other about ways to get you out of the park?
Joe: I mean, at first, in late 2016, it didn’t affect James, but Jeff — at that time I was taking CBD oil without THC in it because I don’t like smoking weed because I just can’t handle the high. So I would open up a capsule of Amoxicillin — this is real important to —
Maxfield-Green: May we approach, Your Honor —

(The following bench conference was held outside the hearing of the jury.)

Maxfield-Green: Your Honor, again, we have already gotten Prince clothes back in, which seems apropos to nothing that was asked. He’s now attempting to insert a story I know very well that he wants to get out there about, again, totally unfounded accusations, things we have no evidence for other than his accusations. There’s no extrinsic evidence of any of this. And I just don’t — and it doesn’t seem relevant to anything that’s being asked. I don’t think that defendant can just give a rambling narrative of every terrible thing he thinks someone who is not subject to cross-examination has done. That’s —
Judge Palk: Well, and the question was is he aware about these two talking about ways to get him out of the park, which I understand has been part of the context of all of this. But, Mr. Earley, where are we going — we were getting — it was getting a little far afield.

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Earley: Well, actually, I think — what I anticipate Mr. Passage testifying to is a couple of occasions at the park: One where he believed that someone, I think he thinks it was Lowe, had put some hash oil into his medication. He was doing a show inside a tiger cage with some tigers in there, it affected him, and it could have resulted in him being seriously injured or killed. The second thing that I anticipate he’ll get into is that there was at some point some perfume placed on his boots. Tigers react very aggressively to certain smells and the — the time that he went into the tiger pen, he was basically attacked by a tiger. This is actually on a video. So there is a basis for it, at least the tiger attacking his shoes. And he believes that Mr. Lowe, with the assistance of someone else, had put that into motion so that they could, you know, have him seriously injured, somehow removed from the park based on that.
Judge Palk: But is that not all just rank speculation on his part?
Earley: Mr. Passage would testify that Mr. Lowe actually admitted on Facebook or social media that he had switched out his medication. And the — you know, I have seen a video where the lions did go after his boots and after him, or at least one of them. He actually had to fire his weapon to get the lion to get away before he could get out of the cage.
Maxfield-Green: Your Honor, number one, hearsay. Whatever Mr. Lowe may have posted on Facebook about it is clearly hearsay. Any admission he made to anybody about it is hearsay. I mean, there — I will concede, on the government’s side, we have seen a video of him being dragged by his foot by an animal, but there is just simply no way — we can’t — we can’t have a trial of every perceived wrong that Mr. Passage believes is attributable to Mr. Lowe.
Judge Palk: Yeah. Mr. Earley, I just think it’s — I think it’s well established in the evidence, at least the jury could believe or disbelieve that there’s ample testimony that Mr. Passage and Mr. Lowe were at odds at various times on various ends of the extremities. And I don’t think it is a mystery, and it’s clearly established that there’s testimony that Mr. Lowe wanted him out of the park. I think it’s getting a little far afield to get into all these other things in terms of these individual steps that he may or may not have taken. It seems a little tenuous to me, so I’m going to sustain the objection.
Earley: May I just sort of do a very summary question to move him off this topic and move on?
Judge Palk: Well, it’s hard for me to know what the question’s going to be, but we’ll see what — Ms. Green?
Maxfield-Green: I think that it has been established, and maybe one more question would establish to his satisfaction that he believed Mr. Lowe was out to get him or trying to get him off the park in a variety of ways. If that’s his belief, that’s his belief, but all of this specific detail that cannot be substantiated is irrelevant and prejudicial.
Judge Palk: I think that’s fair.

(The following record was made in open court, in the presence of all parties, counsel, and in the presence and hearing of the jury.)

Judge Palk: I have made no progress on getting elevator music instead of the white noise sound, but…
Earley: Mr. Passage, was it your belief that Mr. Lowe was trying to get you off the park?
Joe: Yes.
Earley: All right. Now, with respect to Fish & Wildlife Service, you had frequent inspections by the USDA; is that correct?

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Joe: Very frequent.
Earley: OK. About how often did they come out to your park?
Joe: Sometimes every month, sometimes you didn’t see them for a couple of months. The inspectors have to show up every time somebody calls in a complaint on you. So that’s another thing in this industry is it’s fun for one facility to keep calling in fake complaints to another facility because it keeps the inspectors coming and it just ties you up with paperwork.
Earley: Now, they would come at whatever frequency they would, but did Fish & Wildlife ever inspect your premises?
Joe: The Oklahoma Fish & Wildlife, I had to have an exhibitor’s license from them for native animals, like raccoons or black bears or mountain lions and foxes and stuff like that. The Federal Fish & Wildlife, in 20 years I never seen a person from the Federal Fish & Wildlife. And that goes down to the Endangered Species Act. For 20 years nobody was concerned whether or not I had a purebred Siberian tiger or a Sumatran tiger. And we sold tigers up until 2016, and then they — they put on this generic thing, OK, which is really just a policy, it’s not even a law by Congress. And to this day, they still don’t have a form to tell how many tigers you have, how many are born, how many die, where their bodies are after they die. In 20 years, I have had probably 50-plus tigers pass away or euthanized, buried in that back pasture, and nobody gives a damn. Nobody.
Earley: All right. I want to change the topic here to the fall, now, of 2017. Did anything happen during that time frame that changed your entire way of thinking?
Joe: I went to town to get my car fixed, and I got a phone call that my husband shot and killed himself inside the gift shop.

 

[Travis Maldonado]

 
Earley: When did that happen?
Joe: October the 6th of 2017.
Earley: May sound like a silly question, but how did that affect you?
Joe: My entire soul died.

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Earley: In the days following, did you get a chance to stay by yourself and grieve your loss?
Joe: I held a press conference the very next day, and I did my show at 11:30, just like I was supposed to. And I never took a day off. And I was even his preacher at his funeral.
Earley: Did you ever contemplate harming yourself?
Joe: Yeah.
Earley: Who helped you get through the first few days of that?
Joe: John and his daughter.
Earley: Now, we have heard testimony, a lot of testimony, about these five tigers being put down in October 2017. Do you recall that?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: Did you do that?
Joe: I did.
Earley: All right. Tell the jury why you did that.
Joe: After Travis died, I walked through the park every morning looking at the clouds trying to see his face because I couldn’t dream about him or anything. And I walked through and checked the animals every morning, and I would have to ask myself what the hell am I doing because I have all these crippled animals that I am making suffer to be on display to suck donations out of people. And I was no better than — than the facilities that we talk bad about, or the people that we took the animals away from. And me — me and John Reinke talked about it. And we owed the vet so many thousand dollars already. And to tranquilize a tiger so a vet can give it a shot takes 45 minutes sometimes, and it takes several hundred dollars worth of medicine, and then the animal is just convulsing and throwing up and seizing until the vet can even get to it. And the shotgun was a half a second and it was twice as fast. And I had legal right, according to the state of Oklahoma and the USDA, to do that.
Earley: How many years have you dealt with tigers and big cats?
Joe: Close to 25.
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Earley: Do you consider yourself very familiar with that species?
Joe: I consider myself one of the world’s experts in tigers.
Earley: Now, you had a veterinarian associated with the park, correct?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: And that was Dr. Green?
Joe: Dr. Green.
Earley: And you and Dr. Green, through your agreement, had developed a euthanasia protocol, correct?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: And that protocol required Dr. Green to euthanize any animal that needed it, correct?
Joe: For the USDA license, yes.
Earley: All right. Did you violate that protocol in October?
Joe: The USDA license — I would have gotten cited by the USDA as a noncompliance for not calling the vet. Wouldn’t have been anything criminal, but I was giving up my license anyway, so I didn’t care if I get wrote up. The idea was to quit making all these animals suffer for money.
Earley: Did you violate the law by euthanizing those animals?
Joe: Absolutely not.
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Earley: Now, explain why you think you did not violate the law by euthanizing those five tigers.
Joe: Because the state of Oklahoma says that you have the right to shoot — or euthanize your own livestock as long as it doesn’t — “instantaneously” is the word that they use for it. And this law that they have charged me with is absolutely a law that is extremely vague because Congress didn’t enact this right, and that’s why the Trump administration is working on redoing this law right now. The word “take” is to pursue, harass, harm, shoot, kill, wound, capture, or collect an endangered species. That is for something in the wild, that’s not something born in a zoo or every zoo owner would be arrested by now, and every circus owner would be arrested for harassing an animal to make them jump through a hoop. This is for animals in the wild, has nothing to do with this. And if it did have something to do with animals in captivity, I had 50 born, according to the last testimony you heard the other day, and I euthanized five, so I should be getting credit for 45 more.
Earley: After Travis died, what did you decide you were going to do?
Joe: I was done. I called Brittany Peet several times, crying because of what Jeff put me through and James always holding my teeth over my head because I have stolen teeth in my head thanks to them two.
Earley: Now, had you met Ms. Peet before?

 

[Brittany Peet, PETA]

 
Joe: Not before — not before the Dade City Wild Things thing.
Earley: All right.
Joe: Talked to her on the phone.
Earley: What was — what was it like for you to meet Brittany Peet?
Joe: I wished I’d have met her ten years ago.
Earley: Why?

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Joe: Because she was nothing like we all portray each other to be. She was a real human being with real feelings, and she understood what position I was in, and she wasn’t about just killing animals like we all think PETA is about.
Earley: Did you think that she was someone who could help you get yourself out of the park?
Joe: She was helping me get out of the park.
Earley: All right. Now, as far as your arrangements with Ms. Peet, tell the jury what you had in mind.
Joe: Me and my mom had a plan, and it was going to take a little while because we had to jump through all of the civil litigation hoops to do it. But Carole was suing my mom for illegal transfer of assets of the land because we changed the name from the first park to the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park. So the transfer of the land was an issue. And we came up with the idea and the plan, and we ran that by Howard Baskin, through a third person because we couldn’t talk direct to him because of the lawsuit, that mom was going to quit fighting it and quit paying the lawyers. So that way, Carole could get — win the judgment on the illegal transfer of assets, which would void the land deed that Jeff was on and it would go back to 100 percent of my mom owning the property. And because Jeff never paid the lease like they had a contract, she was going to evict him. And that would have got Jeff off the park. And we were working out a deal with PETA to work out with Carole to move all the animals out, and let John Finlay cut the cages apart and sell them for scrap iron in order to have us some private money to move because Carole would have owned the land with that deal. And that was our plan.
Earley: So effectively shut down the entire operation?
Joe: Correct.
Earley: While this was going on, you’re trying to work with PETA and resolve issues with Ms. Baskin, was there still a lot of drama going on at the park?
Joe: It was constantly drama going on at the park. I couldn’t even go to town. I couldn’t even go home and eat lunch. My house is inside the zoo. And I would go home and eat lunch, and I hear this screaming on the radio. And I run out in the park and here’s one of my female workers laying there without an arm and everybody standing there just looking at her like she has some kind of disease. And I kill myself trying to train my staff for medical emergencies and animal emergencies, and then they let the chimpanzees out, then they let the tigers out, then they let the leopards out. And then I go to town and my husband dies. I just couldn’t take any more.
Earley: Now, during this same period of time, even prior to Travis’s death, did you become involved in some outside activities?
Joe: I ran for public office, yes.
Earley: What did you run for?
Joe: In 2016, I just — I write a lot of letters to senators and congressmen, and you never hear anything back ever. You get a form letter if you’re lucky. And I laid in bed one night and I was like, how do a normal person like me and you ever get heard in this country. And I woke up the next morning and I filled out my federal papers to run for president against Donald Trump as an independent. And I didn’t know what I was getting into really. And we didn’t do it as a joke. I was very serious about it. And I probably learned more in 11 months running for president than I did in 12 years of school. And an independent is not recognized in this country, so you have to go to every state and get 140,000 signatures in order to get access to the ballot and pay a fee. And I was the first person to ever make 37 ballots when it come election time in November. So after that, the night of the election, the Libertarian party that had Gary Johnson running for president against Donald Trump called me and asked me if I would change parties and run for 2020. And I thought, hell, yeah, if they’re calling me from the national Libertarian office to run for president, I’m game. So the next morning I changed my parties and I was like, I don’t know if I can keep my mouth shut for four more years. So the governor race in Oklahoma was up because she had termed out. So I signed up to run for governor of the state of Oklahoma. And for a year and a half they had to put up with me on that stage with 15 others debating them. So we as American people that normally pay taxes and work out here for a living had a voice.
Earley: Were you kept busy during the fall of 2017 with that as well?
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Joe: I was in, I believe, six parades between Thanksgiving and the first week of Christmas. And I had Amber, John’s girlfriend at the time, and her three kids living in my house to keep me alive. And the — you know, a lot of people give me a hard time about getting married so soon, but I studied regression and I was looking for every reason for Travis to come back. And I believed that God gave me Dillon to keep me alive.
Earley: Now, I believe you testified earlier that you have been to Tampa, Florida, correct?
Joe: Many times.
Earley: OK. Tell me what years you have been in Tampa, Florida.
Joe: The entire time that we were fighting this litigation, we went down there for depositions several times. I flew down there and went shark fishing and parasailing. I took John and another kid on a — on a trip down there deep sea fishing. I flew down there to do the music video. I actually flew down there to do a protest in front of Carole’s road that goes to her place.
Earley: When was that?
Joe: Maybe 2012, somewhere around there.
Earley: OK. How about 2015 or ’16, had you been down to Tampa?
Joe: I think ’15 — I think ’16 is when I did the music video and — and was running for president. I did a presidential rally there in Clearwater.
Earley: During those visits to Tampa, Florida, and particularly the visits after the lawsuit and things started getting acrimonious between the two of you, did you ever try to approach Carole Baskin?
Joe: I even went on a tour. I paid a tour — to go on a tour at her facility to see what it looked like compared to ours. I never even saw Carole Baskin. And — and I have never emailed her; I have never called her; I have never sent her a message on social media.
Earley: Well, have you ever called her and threatened her?
Joe: Absolutely not.
Earley: Have you ever delivered or sought to have delivered a threat in writing?
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Joe: No, sir.
Earley: Now, prior to the fall of 2017, had anyone ever approached you about hiring someone to kill Carole Baskin?
Joe: Not that I can recall.
Earley: Now, let’s talk about Count 1 of the indictment. Count 1 charges that in November you inquired of Allen Glover if he would travel to Florida to murder Carole Baskin in exchange for some money. Did you do that?
Joe: I never talked to Allen Glover about this.

 

[Allen Glover]

 
Earley: It also says that you told Glover that — or that Glover told you he would go to Florida to murder Carole Baskin in exchange for some money. Did he ever say that to you?
Joe: No, sir.
Earley: Now, the indictment charges that on or about November 6th you caused Mr. Glover to travel to Dallas to get a fake ID for use in this proposed plot for him to go to Florida and kill Carole Baskin. Tell us about this ID situation.
Joe: OK. In October, the last — last week of October, Jeff called me from Las Vegas and told me to call James and get the address of where he goes and gets these fake driver’s licenses that they make to go lease fake addresses, and have Allen go down there and get a fake driver’s license because he needed to get a bus to go back to South Carolina and fix all of his legal problems and everything else he had back there. And Jeff said, and I may send him to Florida to take care of my problem. That was his exact words. And we —
Earley: Was that in October?
Joe: That was in October. And we all forgot about it. Jeff and James never responded to me. I — we just forgot about it. And then Jeff called about a week, week and a half later and said, did you ever get Allen that address. So I called James again and James sent me the address. And I asked John if he’d take him to Dallas because I didn’t want anything to do with Allen in a car for five hours, and I didn’t want any part of whatever they were up to because I had already received a tip through the little canary grapevine there at the park that they were up to something. So that’s when I called John on his way to Dallas and told him to keep at least a block away from that place and do not go in.

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Earley: Now, according to your testimony, you were aware that Lowe wanted him to travel to Dallas and get this ID, potentially for going to Florida; is that right?
Joe: That’s what Jeff said, yes, sir.
Earley: OK. So did you provide Finlay a vehicle to go down there?
Joe: That’s the vehicle he always drove.
Earley: All right. And did you tell him maybe find a different vehicle, don’t take one associated with the park?
Joe: No. We didn’t have any other vehicles.
Earley: All right. So it didn’t bother you that there was a bumper sticker or something on that vehicle that would associate the vehicle with the park?
Joe: No.
Earley: All right. And what was your intention of keeping Mr. Finlay a block or so away from the business?
Joe: Because whatever they were up to, I didn’t want John being implicated in that. And I think I said that on one of them videos too, that we didn’t want any part of it because mom’s nurse told me that they were up to something.
Earley: Now, what did you think they were up to?
Joe: You know, between him and James, you never know what they’re up to because, I mean, they’ll look on social media, at each other, like they’re fighting and they’re best of friends. It’s just — it’s a constant game between them two.
Earley: Well, did you question in your mind, why is Jeff telling me things? I mean —
Joe: I questioned in my mind why Jeff was telling me things all along because on September the 30th he sold a tiger in Las Vegas to Paul Logan, the YouTube star. And I got him to wire $2,000 back to the park so I would have a receipt of him selling that tiger. And he did. And, I mean, it was — it was just the craziest thing because everything that they did they kept providing me with exactly what I needed, copies of leases and the whole nine yards.
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Earley: Well, I believe Mr. Glover said something to the effect that he thought you were trying to gather information or something like that. Do you recall that testimony?
Joe: I remember him saying that I was fishing, and that’s exactly what I was doing.
Earley: So when you provided the information that would allow Finlay and Glover to go down to Dallas and pick up an ID, did you do that with the intention that Allen Glover used that to assist in a plot to murder Carole Baskin?
Joe: I didn’t exactly know what they was going to use it for because it was — it was a toy ID. I didn’t even know if he could get on a bus with it.
Earley: Now, the indictment also alleges that as part of this — this plot that on November 25th you used the mail to send a cell phone out to Las Vegas to conceal Glover’s, I guess participation or involvement in this plot. What do you recall about the cell phone?
Joe: OK. Before all that — there was a lot that happened before that. Jeff had — Jeff had called me several times, talking about him going to — to South Carolina and him going to Florida and —
Earley: Who’s “him”?
Joe: Allen.
Earley: All right.
Joe: OK. And then Jeff gets arrested. In between that all, I think, was — if I have got my timeline right — I don’t remember when he got arrested. It was — it was close to Thanksgiving he gets arrested. And I had talked to James, and I repeated exactly what Jeff told me because I know they’re talking to each other. And that made them both feel like, yeah, they got me in this little web, but I was also consulting a police officer that — that drove for me and — and was my bodyguard. And he kept telling me, just don’t cross the line, you can fish all you want to get the information, but don’t cross the line. And I thought crossing the line was actually hiring a man to go do this, you know. I didn’t think asking questions was crossing the line because I just wanted to know what the hell they were up to. But they were — they were like high-pressure salesmen trying to sell you a vacuum cleaner with extra parts. They just nonstop. It was all about Carole, Carole, Carole, Carole. And then Jeff said, give him three — I mean, at that time I was texting Jeff and saying, the man won’t work for me, he won’t come to a meeting, he won’t do this, he won’t do that. And I guess Jeff — Allen was bitching at Jeff too about the same thing. He didn’t want to work for me anymore. He wanted to go home. So Jeff calls me and says, give Allen $3,000 so he can get his ass back to South Carolina and get his legal mess cleaned up, and he’ll be out of your hair. OK. So —
Earley: OK. So we’re covering a couple of extra things here. So hang with me.
Joe: All right.
Earley: And we’ll just cover that while we’re on it. Did you give Allen Glover some money?
Joe: I did.
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Earley: And you did that because you were told to?
Joe: I was directed by Jeff to give him 3,000 bucks to go home so he had traveling money and living money because Jeff had retail stores out in the east coast and he was going to go work for Jeff out there.
Earley: All right. So where did the money come from that you gave to Glover?
Joe: Out of the night deposits, just like Jeff told me to take it out of the night deposits.
Earley: And what do you mean “night deposits”?
Joe: Every night, and especially during the holidays, we just kept every day’s income in an envelope in the safe until the end of the holiday, and then combine it all together and put it in one deposit.
Earley: So are these like park admission fees and things like that?
Joe: And the pizza restaurant money and both gift shop money, uh-huh.
Earley: So the cash that you provided came from the business, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Earley: All right. Now, along with that there’s this allegation about the cell phone. Tell me what your participation was with respect to this cell phone allegedly being mailed to Mr. Lowe as part of this plot.
Joe: After — after I gave Allen the money, a couple hours later he walks over into the office and he lays his cell phone on the desk, and to this day I swear it didn’t have a charger. It was just a cell phone. And he says, here, we’re supposed to mail this to Jeff. And I carried it in, and I give it to Brenda because I didn’t have his address. And I said, Brenda, Jeff wants you to mail this cell phone to him. And that was the end of it.
Earley: Was there any other discussion between you and Allen about this cell phone?
Joe: No.
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Earley: Any discussion with Jeff about this cell phone?
Joe: No, sir.
Earley: Now, there was testimony from Mr. Glover that you gave him another cell phone.
Joe: That was all a lie.
Earley: Did you give him another cell phone?
Joe: Absolutely not, especially a company phone that we just advertised several thousand dollars to order pizza with.
Earley: So did you see a phone on the day that he was leaving town?
Joe: No, sir.
Earley: Did you use a phone that belonged to Glover to take screen shots of information about Carole Baskin and her place?
Joe: No, sir.
Earley: When did — did you know that Allen Glover was leaving the park on November 25th?
Joe: I didn’t even know he left.
Earley: When was the first time you figured out that he actually left the park?
Joe: Probably two or three days later.
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Earley:: Did you have anything to do with him making arrangements to fly back to South Carolina?
Joe: I didn’t even know he took an airplane until this all started.
Earley: Did you hire Allen Glover to kill Carole Baskin?
Joe: Absolutely not.
Earley: Well, let’s talk about the second count. Do you recall the recordings that were played between Mr. Garretson and you that — in which Garretson is talking to you about this guy that he had that could do things? Do you remember that?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: Do you remember those conversations with Garretson?
Joe: Pretty much.

 

[James Garretson]

 
Earley: When did you first hear from Garretson about this guy that — that he supposedly had?
Joe: I don’t even remember exactly, maybe mid September after I had my teeth.
Earley: All right. And so how did that come up?

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Joe: Well, can I back up just a little bit and fill you in on that?
Earley: Well, if it has something to do with how this topic came up, go ahead.
Joe: I believe that — that’s the reason why this topic come up is in — in late June or August — or July, I had a horrible, horrible toothache and I needed two root canals and two crowns. And James says, I have a CareCredit card that’s about to expire —
Maxfield-Green: Your Honor we’d object. Same objection as before; relevance and hearsay and prejudicial.
Judge Palk: Sustained.
Earley: OK. Mr. Passage, what I need you to do is talk about how this topic of Mr. Garretson’s guy came up and when it first came up.
Joe: We were on the phone talking about my teeth.
Earley: OK. And that’s fine. And when was that?
Joe: August — September, August. August, I think.
Earley: OK. So that’s the first time that you heard Mr. Garretson bring up some guy that he might have to — to do something. What was it that this guy could do?
Joe: Well, he called me; I didn’t call him.
Earley: OK.
Joe: OK. And every time he called you, it was about Carole or Jeff. OK. So it was — it was what information you know about Carole, or what — you know, is Jeff paying any bills, or what’s Jeff doing in Las Vegas. And if I remember right, he just — he just said, is Carole still F’g with you. And I said, yeah, obviously, she never stops. And he says, well, I know a guy that can take care of it. And — and through this entire process — you can watch these videos — and every time I use the excuse I have to sell a cub or I ain’t got no babies born, I ain’t got no money. It was the easiest way to get rid of the man.
Earley: Well, just thinking back, maybe including the recordings and maybe non-recorded contacts you had with Garretson, how many times do you think he brought up his guy during the fall of 2017?
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Joe: Probably 10 or 12, at least.
Earley: OK. Did those remarks continue into December?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: All right. Were those conversations that you started or was the topic brought up by Garretson?
Joe: It was always him calling. And I believe one of them in early December even — I even lied to him and told him I had a photo shoot in Dallas to get out of even the conversation, but I was actually at a parade in Davis, Oklahoma.
Earley: Now, when he was contacting you in December and November about this, were you still in discussions with Ms. Peet about extricating yourself from the park?
Joe: We were still moving tigers out and — and cutting cages apart.
Earley: Your decision to leave the park, how did that — how did that affect your thoughts about Carole Baskin?
Joe: You know, after Travis died and dealing with that and dealing with PETA’s lawsuit to come get them first 19 tigers and — and having three kids that I’m not used to in the house screaming and hollering and meeting Dillon on the 28th and six parades to do and running for office and doing debates at the same time, Carole Baskin didn’t even enter my mind unless one of them called and brought it up.
Earley: Did you ever agree, whether it’s recorded or not, to meet this guy before this December 8th meeting?
Joe: He only had one recording of that, but he called like two or three times, hey, I’m going to bring my guy up tomorrow. And he never shows up. I’m going to bring him up Thursday, and he never shows up. Well, hey, you going to be around Friday. You know what, it’s the same as always. The man never done what he said he was going to do. So I just said, sure. And I’ll be damned if they didn’t show up.
Earley: Yeah. Well, let’s talk about December 8th. Did you plan on meeting with this person?
Joe: No.
Earley: Now, he obviously did show up at the park.
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Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: What were you doing at the time that they popped in on you?
Joe: I don’t recall, but I’m sure I was working the park doing something.
Earley: Were you continuing to do your daily duties and do tours and take care of animals and all that other stuff?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: Was that in addition to your concentration on your campaign?

 

 
Joe: It was during the concentration on everything. I mean, that was the first day actually that — well, no, Dillon had already moved in and — and even he was — I mean, everybody was in and out of the office the entire time.
Earley: Now, where did that — where did most of that conversation take place?
Joe: In the office away from the gift shop.
Earley: Is that sort of a secretive, closed-off place?
Joe: No, it’s open. Everybody had access to it. It’s just a portable building that we had next to the big gift shop office because we outgrew the gift shop office.

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Earley: Now, what was your — your gut feeling about this conversation?
Joe: I had a gut feeling it was an undercover cop.
Earley: Why?
Joe: Because they were so high pressure. I mean, it — first of all, they blocked the door. I couldn’t get out the door. They stood in front of the door. I don’t recall anybody ever sitting down. And you have got a giant Chucky and a guy that looks like hell blocking the only door to get out of the building. And they’re like, oh, we can kill her, we can do this, we can — we can drop the price down to 5,000 bucks. You’re really going to drive to Tampa, Florida and stay there and — and kill somebody and come back on 5,000 bucks? I can’t even deliver a tiger that cheap.
Earley: Did you think it was a setup?
Joe: I believed it was a setup.
Earley: Now, there was a discussion about getting some money together. Do you remember that?
Joe: I do.
Earley: Did you ever get money together?
Joe: No. And I told them — I told them on the recording that I had to sell some cubs to get some money, but I kept telling them the same thing I heard from Jeff during his little setup because at the same time he’s — he’s trucking around with an undercover FBI guy using stolen credit cards.
Earley: Did you ever provide Garretson money for the services of Mark?
Joe: Not a dime.
Earley: Now, there was this discussion about getting a gun for purposes of carrying out this plot. Do you remember that?
Joe: That was their idea.
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Earley: All right. So did you ever try to go get a gun for Mark?
Joe: No.
Earley: Now, there was also some discussion about getting some phones, a phone for you and a phone for Mark so that you two could communicate, and it wouldn’t have anything to do with the park. Do you remember that?
Joe: Yep.
Earley: Did you ever go and purchase any phones for you and Mark?
Joe: Never even thought about it after they left.
Earley: So did you hire Mark to kill Carole Baskin?
Joe: Absolutely not.
Earley: Did you take any further steps, as far as collecting money, making inquiry about guns, inquiry about phones, anything that would suggest you had any interest at all in carrying through with what Mark and Mr. Garretson had proposed?
Joe: Nope.
Earley: Now, we heard a little bit of testimony from Ms. Peet about her trying to intervene and perhaps reach some sort of settlement that would, you know, basically take care of not only them but also the Baskin situation.
Joe: OK.
Earley: What was your understanding of what she was trying to broker for you?
Joe: OK. PETA had a separate contract of their own where I had to get rid of all of the animals, and I could not ever own an exotic animal again, couldn’t have anything to do with anybody that had exotic animals. So I couldn’t go to work for anybody that had exotic animals. And we were going to move all the animals. We were going to allow John Finlay to move into the main house and cut the cages apart, and that’s where we were going to get our extra money. Plus she had no problem coming up with $100,000 to replace the money that mom paid for the land, but they didn’t want Jeff Lowe making a dime. And that’s what broke the deal was Jeff wouldn’t agree to anything because he wanted $400,000 to walk away from it. So we couldn’t get Jeff out. So that’s why we needed mine and my mom’s plan to work on through. And that’s what we were working on. Between the lawyers and PETA and me and mom, we were actually working on that plan up until I got snitched out of having them investigated.
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Earley: All right. So there wasn’t a settlement?
Joe: No, sir.
Earley: And at least from your view, was that because Jeff Lowe wouldn’t sign on?
Joe: It is because Jeff Lowe wouldn’t sign off on it.
Earley: So after the first of the year, going into February, March of 2018, what was your plan as it pertains to the park?
Joe: Well, January the 2nd of 2018, I got my first traffic ticket in my life — running a stop sign — and broke my neck and my back and my right leg. And I was in OU Medical Center for a few days there. And then I get home and I’m in braces. And the — the whole thing of leaving the zoo was still priority on my mind. So we move some bears and some monkeys and some more tigers, and then — because Allen was finally out of my hair. Every time I moved an animal before Allen left, he ‘d call Jeff and Jeff would call and say, what are you doing moving this animal or getting rid of this animal. So I couldn’t get rid of most of the animals that were under my license until Allen was gone. So after Allen was gone, and after I got out of the hospital of having my wreck, we moved almost every primate in that zoo to other facilities, except for the two chimpanzees and the one primate pigtail macaque that John Reinke, the manager — actually, it was his monkey. So we got rid of all the primates. We got rid of almost all the bears. We only had three bears left. And we were still placing tigers at different private facilities. And Brittany was helping me organize all this, but we were having troubles finding sanctuaries that had room for 200 tigers. I mean, moving 200 tigers is a process, you just don’t do it overnight. And June — June — I mean, they — they come up with this Carole thing, you know, a couple more times. And then May he got in some more legal trouble out there and — and I was feeding information to Brittany. I was feeding information to the district attorney in Las Vegas. I was feeding information to another man that was piping it up the USDA to — Bernadette Juarez is the top USDA for us, and she was supposed to be giving some of this stuff to the FBI because he was selling skins and teeth and everything out in Vegas from tigers. And — and so I have got these screen shots and all of the information I needed. If somebody would have just come and ask me, we could have avoided this whole thing.
Earley: Well, did anybody ever come and ask you?
Joe: To this day, nobody has.
Earley: Now, we heard a recording of a phone call that you had with Mr. Finlay while you were being held in custody. Do you recall that?
Joe: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
Earley: And during that phone call you suggested that he had told on you. Do you remember —
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: Do you remember what — what you said?
Joe: I asked him — I asked him who he’s been talking to and he said the FBI. And I — John, the only thing John knew was he was taking Allen to Dallas to go to Florida. Because if he’d have told John the truth, John has a very low self-esteem, so he always attaches himself to the wrong people because they become his friend fast. And he just wouldn’t keep his mouth shut if I would have told him the truth, so that’s why I told him to park a block away from the damn place so he didn’t get implicated in anything. And what’s he do, he walks right in the damn building.
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Earley: So what did you mean during this conversation when you accused him of selling you out, or whatever the exact words were?
Joe: Well, I mean, he knew that the — the direct orders came from Jeff. And I wanted to make sure that when he talked to the FBI he didn’t say it was just my — my sending him down there, that I wanted to make sure that he told them that Jeff is the one who told us to send him down there.
Earley: All right. Now, at any time did you intend for someone to kill Carole Baskin in exchange for money or any other thing of value?
Joe: No.
Earley: May I have just a moment?
Judge Palk: You may.
Earley: Pass the witness.
Maxfield-Green: Your Honor, if I could just have an extra couple of minutes.
Judge Palk: Sure. Actually, ladies and gentlemen, it’s sometimes a lot better if we don’t interrupt you as — we’re at a natural break here, so let’s take our afternoon break just a little bit early. We’ll break for 15 minutes, and please remember the admonition. If those in the courtroom would please remain seated as the jury exits.

(Jury exited.)

Judge Palk: Counsel, my — so we’ll start back up at about five ’til. My intent is that we power through and — and finish at least with testimony today, even if that means we may end up having to stay just a little bit late. I don’t know how much you have, Ms. Green, or any redirect, but my plan is is that we get this wrapped up. I don’t see any way that we’re going to instruct and close this afternoon. I don’t want to break those things up, but I also don’t want to break early today. But at the pace we’re going, I’m expecting this will probably run us all the way to 5:00 anyway. So even if we go over a little bit, I’m going to assess that with the jury. But my intent is that we finish Mr. Passage’s testimony today. And then I don’t know if you have anything additional after that, Mr. Earley. But anyway, so we’ll be in recess until about five ’til.

(Break taken. The following record was made in open court, in the presence of all parties, counsel, and in the presence and hearing of the jury.)

Judge Palk: Ms. Green, cross-examination.

 

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[Amanda Maxfield-Green]

 
Maxfield-Green: Thank you, Your Honor. Good afternoon, Mr. Passage. Mr. Passage, since you have been in jail, you have been working on selling your life story to several different members of the media, correct?
Joe: I have been working on selling some of the footage from the zoo and — and the past. And — and one of them I had a contract with in, like, 2017.
Maxfield-Green: And Rebecca Chaiklin, is that how you say it?
Joe: I have no idea how to say her last name.
Maxfield-Green: Chaiklin is the best I can do. Rebecca Chaiklin is one of your filmmakers, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: And what about Eric Goode, he’s one of your filmmakers, correct?
Joe: They’re together.
Maxfield-Green: Rebecca and Eric work together?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: Is Rebecca in the courtroom today?
Joe: Eric is.

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Maxfield-Green: So Rebecca and Eric, they’re working on a film about your life, right?
Joe: We started a documentary way before Travis died.
Maxfield-Green: OK. What about Teresa McCown? She’s one of your filmmakers, correct?
Joe: She used to be my producer before my studio burnt down.
Maxfield-Green: And is she making a film about you as well?
Joe: She hasn’t asked for any footage or anything yet. She hadn’t done anything. I don’t know what she’s doing.
Maxfield-Green: Well, you have gotten several thousands of dollars already from Rebecca and Eric, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: And have you gotten several thousand dollars from Teresa McCown for your story?
Joe: I haven’t gotten a dime from Teresa. My husband has.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And that’s up into the several thousands of dollars, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: And you have been negotiating with them ever since you have been in jail, correct?
Joe: Correct.
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Maxfield-Green: And it was Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode who paid John Finlay for an interview about you, correct?
Joe: From my understanding, they paid a lot of people.
Maxfield-Green: And this is all in connection with a film about your life, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: Now, you and Mr. Earley covered a lot of stuff. So I’m going to try to go a little bit in order but —
Joe: OK.
Maxfield-Green: Now, Mr. Earley talked to you about Darlene Cervantes. Do you recall that?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: And your testimony was — and he talked to you about Government’s Exhibit 21, which is that text exchange with her, correct?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: Now, your testimony was that you told — you told her that the cubs would be a thousand dollars just to get rid of her, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: OK. But that — you saw that text exchange in the government’s part of the case, right?
Joe: I saw it, yes, ma’am.
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Maxfield-Green: Now, that text exchange went on from October to February, correct?
Joe: That — that should explain that it wasn’t a very serious sale, was it?
Maxfield-Green: But that whole text exchange was all about selling a couple of tigers for a thousand dollars, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Now — you have got to forgive me, I have got a lot of notes here.
Joe: You’re all right.
Maxfield-Green: So you told — you said on direct that in 2014, in October of 2014, you got extremely ill; is that right?
Joe: Very ill.
Maxfield-Green: And you got so ill, it sounds like you were on your deathbed; is that right?
Joe: I was.
Maxfield-Green: And you made a deal with God, correct?
Joe: I did.
Maxfield-Green: That if you walked out of that hospital you were going to be different and — and kind of — I can’t remember what words you used, but you were going to do better, I think you said.
Joe: I was going to try and change, yes, ma’am.
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Maxfield-Green: And that was in October of 2014?
Joe: That was. October the 21st, to be exact.
Maxfield-Green: OK. So do you remember on — when we were talking to Ms. Baskin, and during the government’s case, we looked at a lot of posts and videos of yours, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: Can we see Government’s Exhibit 97, Jane? Just blow that up. Now, that’s a post on your Facebook page, right?
Joe: It’s a post on one of my Facebook pages.
Maxfield-Green: And you had several, correct?
Joe: I had 19 of them.
Maxfield-Green: So this is one of them, correct?
Joe: That is one of them.
Maxfield-Green: Is that a photo of you standing at the coffin?
Joe: That is.
Maxfield-Green: And now, as I recall — this one says, “I bought my good friend Carole in Florida a Christmas present. It even came with me singing a farewell song.” That was posted on December 28th of 2014, correct?
Joe: Mine says 21 hours.
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Maxfield-Green: Okay. I think if you look in the lower right-hand corner of when that’s — shows when that screen shot was —
Joe: Oh, when the screen shot was taken. Well, I mean, that shows when the screen shot was taken, but that don’t show when the post was put up.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Well, you heard the testimony on direct that Ms. Baskin believed it was posted on about December 28th of 2014?
Joe: I heard a lot about what Ms. Baskin believes.
Maxfield-Green: So December 28th of 2014 would have been after you made your deal with God, correct?
Joe: Would have been a long time after that, but may I elaborate on that?
Maxfield-Green: No. That — I just — December is after — December 14 is after October 14, correct?
Joe: I was way too sick to be on top of that casket in December of ’14.
Maxfield-Green: OK. If we can see Government’s Exhibit 100, which was also played during the government’s case.

(Video played in open court.)

Maxfield-Green: OK. So that video was posted on September 17th of 2015, correct?
Joe: All right.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And that would have been after October of ’14, correct?
Joe: Correct.

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Maxfield-Green: OK.
Joe: Can we play the music video?
Maxfield-Green: I don’t think we need to.
Joe: Well, it shows that —
Judge Palk: Mr. Passage, Mr. Passage, please just answer the questions. Your — Mr. Earley will have the opportunity to ask you additional questions if he wants to elaborate for some additional information, but please just answer the questions before you.
Joe: Yes, sir.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Mr. Passage, the best as I understood your testimony on direct, you’re telling us that you never sold a tiger across state lines, right?
Joe: Up until 2016 I sold a bunch of them.
Maxfield-Green: OK. So you’re — let me get this right then. Your testimony is that after 2016 when the generic tiger loophole closed —
Joe: And I didn’t own a zoo at that time.
Maxfield-Green: So your testimony is that, after that point in 2016, you never sold tigers, correct?
Joe: I did not.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And you — is your testimony also that you never, in the same regard, would have never falsified any documents to cover up a sale like that, correct?
Joe: I mean, all of the — all of the documents that we fill out are transfer forms and those are donated from whoever owned the animal.
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Maxfield-Green: Now, Jeff and Lauren Lowe were back at the park by May of 2018, correct?
Joe: Yes, somewhere around there.
Maxfield-Green: And you had a conversation with the two of them when you were sitting at a desk in their house at the zoo, correct, on about May 3rd of 2018?
Joe: I think that conversation started in the office.
Maxfield-Green: OK.
Joe: And overflowed through the house.
Maxfield-Green: So you recall that conversation?
Joe: I think so, if you’re talking about the same one.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And you’re aware that conversation was recorded, correct?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: OK. The government moves to admit Exhibit 62-1, -2 and -3, which are clips of that conversation, Your Honor.
Judge Palk: Is there any objection from the defendant?
Earley: Well, we haven’t actually seen these exhibits, Your Honor.
Judge Palk: Parties approach.

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(The following bench conference was held outside the hearing of the jury.)

Judge Palk: These were not produced in discovery?
Maxfield-Green: They were produced in discovery, Your Honor. They have had this video for a long time. What we were discussing is that this is a conversation, kind of a long-ranging conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Lowe and Mr. Passage. And the reason it is clipped into three little parts is because we made every attempt to get as much of Mr. Lowe’s comments out of it, just enough for the context of what they’re talking about. There are long sections where Mr. Lowe is talking and making accusations. We cut all that out. It is pretty much cut down to just Mr. Passage’s statements.
Earley: The only concern was that this — this particular video covered a lot of territory, to include allegations of campaign finance —
Maxfield-Green: There is nothing in this exhibit about campaign finance, embezzlement. This is all — the comments that are being offered are being used to directly impeach what Mr. Passage has said. He is talking about sales of tiger cubs to Mr. Engesser that had clearly happened at the few months prior and his falsification of documents to cover that up.
Judge Palk: So, Mr. Earley, your concern was that it went into some other areas?
Earley: Correct.
Judge Palk: And if the government’s representing that’s not the case, do you have any objection to the exhibits?
Earley: No.
Judge Palk: OK.

(The following record was made in open court, in the presence of all parties, counsel, and in the presence and hearing of the jury.)

Judge Palk: Ms. Green, could you repeat those numbers again?
Maxfield-Green: Yes, Your Honor, the government’s moving to admit 61-1, 61-2, 61-3.
Judge Palk: Those will be admitted without objection.

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(Video played in open court.)

Maxfield-Green: OK. And that conversation was on May 3rd of 2018, correct?
Joe: I guess, yes.
Maxfield-Green: Now, Mr. Passage, again, you — it was your testimony that you never sold endangered species cubs, lions or tigers, correct?
Joe: According to this video right here, he was accusing me of stealing his money from selling a cub.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Were you intending to broker the sale of a litter of lions from your jail cell?
Joe: Do what?
Maxfield-Green: Were you intending to broker the sale of a litter of lions from your jail cell?
Joe: Broker a litter of lions from my jail cell? I don’t have any lions.
Maxfield-Green: Now, you made phone calls from jail, right?
Joe: Made a couple hundred.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And you’re aware that those calls are recorded, right?
Joe: I am.
Maxfield-Green: Government moves to admit Exhibit 162 and 163.

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Judge Palk: Any objection?
Earley: I’m sure they’re among the thousands that there are, but if Ms. Green’s representing that they’re phone calls from the jail and that Mr. Passage is on them, I have no reason to disbelieve her.
Judge Palk: So no objection?
Earley: No.
Judge Palk: 162 and 163 will be admitted.
Maxfield-Green: 162, Jane.

(Audio played in open court.)

Maxfield-Green: And if we can have 163, please.

(Audio played in open court.)

Maxfield-Green: OK. Mr. Passage, on direct you testified that — that Jeff Lowe was selling tiger cubs, correct?
Joe: At the zoo.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And that you even kept a ledger where you kept track of his tiger cub sales, right?
Joe: I did.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Now, so you knew, you know, back last year that Jeff Lowe was selling tiger cubs. Is that your testimony?

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Joe: Yes.
Maxfield-Green: Why didn’t you report that to law enforcement?
Joe: I tried to report a whole bunch of stuff.
Maxfield-Green: Who did you report the fact that Jeff Lowe was selling tiger cubs to? Did you report it to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service?
Joe: I didn’t report it to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service because I have never seen one of them guys. And when you call the U.S. Fish & Wildlife, nobody ever knows nothing. They transfer you ten different times. So I told the Garvin County Sheriff’s Department, I told the USDA, and —
Maxfield-Green: Who did you tell at the USDA?
Joe: I told the guy that was sending everything to Bernadette Juarez. And I told the investigator and the district attorney out in Las Vegas because I had screen shots of him selling cubs out there.
Maxfield-Green: OK.
Joe: May I comment on your video?
Maxfield-Green: I didn’t have any questions about that.
Joe: OK.
Maxfield-Green: Now, and just to understand the timeline and everything, so Jeff Lowe — it was your testimony that Jeff Lowe was in Las Vegas from about May, June of 2017. Is that when he left for Las Vegas?
Joe: Somewhere around there.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And he — sounds like he came back and forth a little bit, correct?
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Joe: Whenever he run out of cubs.
Maxfield-Green: So he came back about in April of 2018, correct, or came back —
Joe: For a little bit or for good?
Maxfield-Green: For good.
Joe: I think it was closer to May. I’m not sure.
Maxfield-Green: And that would have been 2018 when he came back for good?
Joe: Well, he came back, supposedly for good, and then he left again.
Maxfield-Green: Now, you talked about this proposal from PETA, correct? You talked about that on direct?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: And you were here for Ms. Peet’s testimony last Friday, correct?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And so you heard her testify that any negotiation with you that she was proposing did not involve Carole Baskin. Did you hear that testimony?
Joe: OK. She — I forget exactly what she said, but the — the negotiations that she was working with me was with PETA, and Carole would not agree to anything unless I agreed to PETA’s thing first. That’s what was going on.
Maxfield-Green: OK. But Ms. Peet testified that the Baskins were not part of a draft proposal she was giving you in January of ’18, correct?
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Joe: The draft proposal was PETA’s draft, PETA’s side of it.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And you saw the email between you and Ms. Peet from January 24th of 2018, correct?
Joe: I don’t recall we saw that email.
Maxfield-Green: Well, it’s Government Exhibit 160. We can just look at it. It’s already been admitted. OK. Now, this is an email from you to Ms. Peet on January 24th, 2018, right?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: And it says, “Brittany, unless I’m blind or stupid, this does not get rid of the judgment.” And it was Ms. Peet’s testimony that that judgment meant the litigation between you and Carole Baskin. Did you hear that testimony?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And it says, “nor help in any way to pay off our legal bills and to make any money.” And that’s what it says, right?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And that email was from you to Ms. Peet in January of 2018, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And you also testified that as part of your working with PETA through the, I guess winter of 2017, 2018, you gave up 40 tigers, correct?
Joe: Nineteen the first time and 20 the second time.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Now, that first 19, were those — those were the Dade City tigers, right?
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Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: OK. The ones that came in on the cattle trailer in July of ’17?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Now, you gave those up because PETA sued you to force you to give them up, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: And then you gave them an additional 20, 21 tigers at some other point?
Joe: After I met Ms. Peet in person, yes.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Now the tigers you gave them, those were your nonbreeding males, right?
Joe: No. We gave them some pairs.
Maxfield-Green: OK.
Joe: I believe we did.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And we spoke about the passing of your husband on October 6th of 2017, correct?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: And then — that was Mr. Maldonado, correct?
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Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: And you’re currently married to Mr. Passage, correct?
Joe: Correct.

 

[Dillon Passage]

 
Maxfield-Green: And you remarried him on — I’m sorry — you married him on December 11th of 2017; is that correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: So is that about eight weeks after Mr. Maldonado died?
Joe: Couple of months.
Maxfield-Green: And, in fact, the conversation that we listened to between you and James Garretson and Mark Williams, the undercover, that was just a few days prior to — to your being married, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: OK. So you testified on direct with Mr. Earley that James Garretson kept telling you that he could get you a hit man. Is that your testimony?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.

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Maxfield-Green: OK. And you kept telling him that you needed to sell a cub to get rid of him. Is that your testimony?
Joe: That is my excuse to always get rid of him, yes.
Maxfield-Green: Now, when James Garretson kept coming to you and offering you a hit man, you didn’t report that to law enforcement, correct?
Joe: No.
Maxfield-Green: You testified on direct you had a FBI agent’s phone number in your phone, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: But you never reported it to him, right?
Joe: Never got any good response out of the last four things we reported to him.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And you’re saying — your testimony on direct was that James Garretson brought you — or brought Mark Williams to the park to meet you. We heard that whole recording, correct?
Joe: Correct.
Maxfield-Green: And that you — I understand your testimony to be that you knew that he was an undercover officer, correct?
Joe: I had a gut feeling.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And you didn’t contact law enforcement about that, did you?
Joe: No.
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Maxfield-Green: You didn’t confront James Garretson about it, did you?
Joe: No, because I still needed to get some information of where these girls were being held.
Maxfield-Green: You didn’t try to — you didn’t blow the undercover cop’s cover, did you?
Joe: No. He was still using stolen credit cards hauling that cop around. Why would I tell him I knew anything?
Maxfield-Green: OK. And so the best I understand the remainder of the testimony you did with Mr. Earley is that, essentially, pretty much all of the government witnesses were lying about something, correct?
Joe: They were definitely lying about Robert Engesser.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And Allen Glover’s lying about pretty much everything?
Joe: He’s protecting his boss.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And James Garretson’s lying about pretty much everything?
Joe: About — all I heard him testify was to the recordings that we heard.
Maxfield-Green: OK. John Finlay, is he lying?
Joe: John Finlay was pretty on point except for he said we delivered a hundred cubs over state lines, which is probably right, but they weren’t all after 2016. But other than that, John was probably your most honest witness you have had so far.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Including the part where he said you called him when he was on the way to Dallas and told him that the fake ID was so that Glover could kill Carole Baskin? Was he right about that?
Joe: He had that backwards. I told him that first, and I called him and told him to stay away from that building on the way.
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Maxfield-Green: OK.
Joe: And Carole Baskin was lying.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Thank you. But you’re telling the truth, correct?
Joe: Yeah. The — the —
Maxfield-Green: That’s my question, Mr. Passage. You’re telling the truth?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: No further questions, Your Honor.
Judge Palk: Redirect.
Earley: Mr. Passage, how long have you been working with documentary filmmakers?
Joe: Since probably 2009, 2010.
Earley: OK. Let’s — let’s just use the time frame of 2009 up until you left in 2018. In the spring of 2018, were — was there anybody there filming you or trying to document what you did at the park?
Joe: The last part of 2017, we documented when Travis died. I had to re-act spreading his ashes and the whole bit. And then in 2018, they were out filming other people for the same documentary. And then when it got close to June and all hell broke loose and I hid some animals out in Tulsa at a facility over there, they videotaped me moving and hauling the animals there and spent all day there. And then I — I ain’t got nothing to hide — and then the next day they took me to a motel, and we did a little bit of soft porn for the same documentary in my underwear. So I — I’ve filmed with Allison Eastwood; I’ve filmed with Japanese people for a Japanese film. I have filmed a lot of films.
Earley: So — and apparently some news outfit, CNN or somebody came and talked to you, right? We saw a video clip of that.
Joe: Years ago.
Earley: Yeah. I mean, has that continued throughout the years?
Joe: I — I have been all over the world on TV, yes. Yes, sir. And talk shows.
Earley: So is the fact that someone is collecting footage that you have from the park, is that something unusual?
Joe: Not at all.
Earley: So what — what is somebody working on right now, to your knowledge?

 

[Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin]

 
Joe: Well, Eric Goode and Rebecca is still working on the same documentary we started two and a half years ago. And after I left the zoo, they downloaded several computers with probably 30,000 hours of video from — because we filmed everything at the park — I have got the girl losing her arm on tape; I have got it all. Everything that happened at that zoo is on tape. And — and I signed a contract back in early 2016, ’17 with Mr. Goode. And he owed me 20 more thousand bucks, and that’s what my husband has been living on since this all started because we — they bulldozed my house; they bulldozed everything I own. I lost my car. We have nowhere to live. He’s living with his mom and his sister in Texas. And, you know, Mr. Goode even has Ms. Baskin on videotape that he has offered once or twice to show she was lying about that assault in Tampa, Florida, that happened in 2006 before I even knew her.
Earley: So this business about you collecting money or what have you from people, that’s old news?
Joe: It’s from people that owe me money, yes, sir.
Earley: All right. And I guess you have already said this, you have nothing?
Joe: I have nothing. If I walk out of here today, I have got to give this suit back.
Earley: Now, Ms. Green asked you about Government’s Exhibit 97, which was this — this photo that was supposedly posted on Facebook December 28th, 2014. You had some disagreement with the date.
Joe: OK. Well, first of all, Joe Schreibvogel’s Facebook page was being run by somebody out of the office. OK? I run the Joseph Maldonado-Passage page. Second of all, we quit the magic show in 2011. We retired the magic show. And that’s me standing on top of a casket in one of our main illusion shows, and they’re trying to tell me that was in 2014.
Earley: So, to your recollection, even though some screen shot may show that it’s in 2014, you believe that photo was actually from 2011, or thereabouts?
Joe: Or thereabouts.
Earley: All right. Now, Ms. Green showed you a video clip from September 17th, 2015, suggesting that you — you broke your deal with God and you weren’t changing your ways; you were going back to your old ways. Do you remember seeing that?
Joe: I do.
Earley: Is that what that represents?
Joe: No, it doesn’t.
Earley: What do you think it represents?
Joe: It represents a very, very professional music video that we put out that she hates, and it’s about her feeding her husband to the tigers.
Earley: So this — this is a music video?
Joe: It is a music video.
Earley: All right. Is that all that follows that introductory comment by you?
Joe: That is all that follows.
Earley: Now, your testimony is that up to 2016 you probably sold a bunch of tigers; is that right?
Joe: Yeah.
Earley: And it wasn’t illegal then?
Joe: Nobody ever DNA tested them to see if they were purebred Siberian or Bengal.
Earley: Well, if they did would they have found that out?
Joe: If they had something to compare it to.
Earley: All right. So after 2016, your — your story is that, hey, I never sold any tigers. Why are you saying that?
Joe: Because Jeff claimed everything, whether he touched it, whether he used it, whether he bought it, it become Jeff’s. And I tried to get some of those animals out of there, and he told me I owed $4.6 million for boarding, and that was through my legal team.
Earley: Now, we saw that little video, or actually three little clips of that video that Lauren Lowe had recorded. Do you remember that?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: OK. Do you remember that day?
Joe: I do remember that day.
Earley: What do you remember about that day?
Joe: That day started in the office, and he was throwing shit around and hitting file cabinets. I thought they were going to beat the hell out of me because I have seen him beat up an employee before. And we finally got out of that office, and then I took the paperwork and the bank statements down to his house to prove to him that he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, and it escalated there until I left.
Earley: Now, you said something to the effect that you had sold something to Mr. Engesser, a cub?
Joe: I do remember saying that, but I made that up just to get out of the situation.
Earley: OK. So had you, on behalf of the zoo, had any transactions with Mr. Engesser?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: OK. Let me ask you this: Whatever transactions you may have had with him, did they occur in November of 2017?
Joe: I don’t believe so at all, no, sir.
Earley: And I want to just go back. Is it your testimony that you did not receive any money from Mr. Engesser in November of 2017?
Joe: I know I did not.
Earley: The money that Lowe asked you to give to Glover came from where?
Joe: The cash register deposits.
Earley: So if Mr. Engesser testified, and you heard him, that he hadn’t been there and he didn’t buy a cub from you in November of 2017, would that be true?
Joe: That would be true.
Earley: Now, Ms. Green asked you about some phone calls that were recorded —
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: — where you’re brokering the sale of a litter of lions. Did you hear that?
Joe: I heard that.
Earley: All right. So the first one, Government’s Exhibit 162, had something to do with Charlie somebody and some lions. Tell the jury what the conversation is about.
Joe: OK. Dillon was living at his mom’s and his sister’s down in Belton, Texas. And Charlie over in Amarillo, Texas, used to have a zoo open to the public, but PETA harassed him to the point that he lost his USDA license, and he closed to the public, but he still has his animals. And every time he has a litter of baby lions born, they end up dying because he don’t know how to take care of them. So he would have — call us and Reinke would — because Reinke lives in Texas, he would run over to Amarillo and pick them up and save them. OK. And we’d take them back to the zoo. So he was expecting a litter of babies, and we’re all gone from the zoo. So I was going to have Dillon go pick them up over there. And it’s perfectly legal; we’re not selling anything across state lines. And I would have found a buyer from them — for them from jail in Texas so Dillon had some money to live on. Simple as that. You don’t even need a USDA license because you’re in the same state.
Earley: So there really wasn’t anything illegal or underhanded or anything having to do with that —
Joe: Absolutely not. And if — if he would have got some cubs and came to Oklahoma to stay and start — because the laws in Oklahoma are — are better, he still wouldn’t have been breaking no laws because he’s not going to be open to the public. So he doesn’t need a USDA license. And he doesn’t need any license from the state of Oklahoma because in 2006 we did have licenses here. OK. And you had to have a $50 permit to have a bear or a cat that grew to weigh over 50 pounds to keep or maintain on your premises. And in 2006 I was doing magic shows, and the game wardens wrote me some tickets for leaving my property with my animals because they thought it said keep them maintained on premises. You couldn’t leave your premises with the animals. So I hired a law firm in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, and I filed a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma because in 1952 they wrote a law that said they own all wildlife. So if they’re going to own it and sell you a deer hunting license for a deer on your property, they’re going to pay to take care of it. And I filed a $380,000 boarding lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma and they wrote me a $20,000 check and told me to go away, and they got rid of all the laws. And that’s why we don’t have any laws here.
Earley: Now, Government’s Exhibit 163 was some reference to Charlie and Greg Woody. What was that about? Do you remember that call?
Joe: It was the same conversation.
Earley: OK.
Joe: It’s just they cut it apart.
Earley: All right. Now, I want to make sure I understand what this situation was and what your testimony is with respect to PETA. Now, this email, what were you talking about as far as the proposal from PETA?
Joe: OK. She sent me the draft. OK. And it didn’t have any dollar figure in it. It was just to close and quit doing all this and that. OK. And I sent that email back to her. And PETA, in order to get a place to close in Texas, paid the man six — and all he had was two bears — paid the man $60,000 for those bears, OK, and some of his circus equipment to move to their facility, which is the Black Beauty Ranch in south Texas. And that was — I was referring to, because Jeff just wouldn’t do anything without any money. So I put in there, I’m like, hell, you paid 60,000 bucks for two bears. I said, you’re getting an entire zoo, the property and everything. And I needed some money to pay off the bills so we didn’t just stick everybody — owing them money.
Earley: So if I understand correctly, you had to agree to PETA’s proposal, correct?
Joe: Before we moved on to Big Cat Rescue’s proposal.
Earley: All right. So unless you and Mr. Lowe agreed to that proposal that was sent to you by Ms. Peet?
Joe: Correct.
Earley: Ms. Baskin wasn’t going to enter into any negotiations with you to resolve your problem with her?
Joe: You are right.
Earley: All right. Now, Ms. Green asked you about the transfer of tigers, the second transfer. The first one had to do with the Dade City tigers, correct?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: So the second group that went out, that was you getting rid of your own, correct?
Joe: Yes, sir.
Earley: You weren’t paid for that?
Joe: No, sir.
Earley: And you thought that there were some pairs, correct?
Joe: I believe there was, yes.
Earley: But what else was included in that transfer?
Joe: Three bears, I believe. Three black bears and some baboons. I think there was a trio of baboons.
Earley: So as far as reducing your — your inventory, did that lead to you almost getting rid of all of the primates on your property?
Joe: That got rid of the big primates, and then we sent a bunch of littler primates over to Tulsa.
Earley: Who assisted with that?
Joe: Just the park staff that helped catch them.
Earley: So was that part of your agreement to — with PETA to try to reduce your inventory?
Joe: Well, I told her that I was going to, and she was having troubles finding a place to send everything. And to this day, because of the litigation, I haven’t spoke to her directly. We have been going through somebody.
Earley: All right. I believe that’s it, Your Honor.
Judge Palk: Redirect — I’m sorry — recross.
Maxfield-Green: While we figure out what exhibit number this is, I’m going to give it to defense.
Judge Palk: OK.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Mr. Passage.
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: You just testified that the filmmakers that you have been communicating with, those were people from your past, correct?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And people that got in touch with you prior to all of this, correct?
Joe: Most of them, uh-huh.
Maxfield-Green: OK. But you have been soliciting to shop your story around to people since you have been in jail too, correct?
Joe: I haven’t been soliciting nobody because I can’t reach out to nobody. There’s been a whole lot of people email me to the jail, yes.
Maxfield-Green: OK. And so you’re familiar — you have been sending and receiving emails in jail, correct?
Joe: Yes.
Maxfield-Green: And you’re familiar that all those are logged, correct?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Government’s going to introduce — well, first let me lay a little more foundation here. Do you know Manuel Oteyza?
Joe: I do.
Maxfield-Green: Is he in the courtroom today?
Joe: He is.
Maxfield-Green: Have you emailed back and forth with him?
Joe: Not as much as we have talked on the phone.
Maxfield-Green: OK. Government moves to admit Exhibit 165.
Judge Palk: Any objection?
Earley: No objection.
Judge Palk: 165 will be admitted.
Maxfield-Green: Now, this is an email from you to Manuel Oteyza, correct?
Joe: It is.
Maxfield-Green: And are you familiar with Mr. Oteyza’s other films?
Joe: ‘Blackfish.’
Maxfield-Green: That’s one.
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: And this was on November 17th, 2018, correct?
Joe: It looks — appear to be.
Maxfield-Green: Does it say, “Manuel, just curious if you ever buy material for your film. I am desperate to get a rent house before my bond hearing so I can go home until trial. I have thousands of hours of footage on computers from my studio at the zoo and on hard drives, along with over 70 pages of my diary from the age of five until now and after this experience. I will make the biggest advocate for animals you have ever seen. I’m in need of $7,000 for deposits and rent to cover me until trial, or until I can get home. Just curious, Joe.” Is that what you wrote?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: Now, Mr. Earley asked you about that conversation with the Lowes that we saw earlier, right?
Joe: Yes, ma’am.
Maxfield-Green: And your testimony, when Mr. Earley asked you about that, is that I believe you said that you made that up to get out of the situation. Is that what you said?
Joe: I did. And it started in the office and I made up one in there too.
Maxfield-Green: That — that was my only question.
Joe: OK.
Maxfield-Green: Thank you.
Judge Palk: Parties approach.

(The following bench conference was held outside the hearing of the jury.)

Judge Palk: I’m going to let Mr. Passage return to the table. I don’t think that that’s that big of a deal that the marshal follows him. You guys fine with that?
Maxfield-Green: I think that’s all right.

(The following record was made in open court, in the presence of all parties, counsel, and in the presence and hearing of the jury.)

Judge Palk: Mr. Passage, you may step down.

 
————-

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Posted by Tony Ortega on April 3, 2020 at 06:00

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