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

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Testimony has begun in the attempted murder-for-hire trial of an ex-Oklahoma zookeeper and former candidate for governor.

Television station KFOR reports testimony began Monday in the trial of Joseph Maldonado-Passage after attorneys gave their opening statements.

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

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

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

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