FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The stretch limousine that sat outside the federal prison in Fort Worth on January 19 left empty — this after President Donald Trump’s flurry of pardons didn’t include one for “Tiger King” Joe Exotic.

His team had been confident that a pardon was coming… even having a hair and wardrobe team on-hand to whisk away the zookeeper-turned-reality-TV-star, who is now serving a 22-year federal prison sentence. But he wasn’t on the list announced early Wednesday morning.

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Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for his role in a failed murder-for-hire plot targeting his chief rival, Carole Baskin, who runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida. Baskin was not harmed.

Maldonado-Passage, who has maintained his innocence, was also sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records. A jury convicted him in April 2019.

In his pardon application filed in September, Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys argued that he was “railroaded and betrayed” by others. Maldonado-Passage, 57, is scheduled to be released from custody in 2037, but his attorneys said in the application that “he will likely die in prison” because of health concerns.

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Maldonado-Passage’s legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday.

The blond mullet-wearing zookeeper, known for his expletive-laden rants on YouTube and a failed 2018 Oklahoma gubernatorial campaign, was prominently featured in the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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CBSDFW.com Staff