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10 dead at Joe Exotic's prison from virus outbreak

Joe Exotic, the former Oklahoma zookeeper whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, has been granted more time to make a legal filing after telling judge the number of inmates with COVID-19 at the federal prison where he is housed makes it impossible to complete his work. [NETFLIX PHOTO]
Joe Exotic, the former Oklahoma zookeeper whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, has been granted more time to make a legal filing after telling judge the number of inmates with COVID-19 at the federal prison where he is housed makes it impossible to complete his work. [NETFLIX PHOTO]

A COVID-19 outbreak at Joe Exotic's prison in Texas has killed 10 inmates, more than any other facility or halfway house in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

More than 600 inmates have tested positive at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth since the pandemic began, according to the bureau.

The former Oklahoma zookeeper — whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage — was transferred to the Federal Medical Center in March.

The big cat breeder was sentenced in January to 22 years in prison for twice trying to have his chief critic killed, for illegally killing five tigers at his zoo in Wynnewood and for other crimes. "Not sure when this will be over here," he wrote of the outbreak in a May 5 letter filed in Oklahoma City federal court.

He wrote to ask for more time to make a legal filing in his civil rights case. He is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, his lead prosecutor, a federal agent, a former business partner and others he blames for his arrest and conviction. He has asked for almost $94 million.

Joe Exotic explained in the letter that he was still being held in a special housing unit. "The unit I was suppose to go to has over 200 people tested positive for COVID-19 so I still will not have access to any email, phone or the outside," he wrote.

U.S. District Judge Scott Palk gave him until July 27 to make the legal filing.

The pandemic made Joe Exotic a household name as millions watched the Netflix documentary series about his life and murder-for-hire trial. "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness" premiered in March at a time Americans increasingly stayed at home.

People magazine featured him on the cover in April, and actor Nicolas Cage has agreed to play him in a television series.

The Bureau of Prisons reported Thursday there have been 59 federal inmate deaths so far attributed to COVID-19.

More than 4,500 inmates and 583 workers have tested positive since the pandemic began, according to the bureau. Most have recovered.

The first death of an inmate from the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth was April 22. The latest was Tuesday. The facility holds more than 1,400 male offenders.

The inmate who died Tuesday was from Oklahoma.

Joseph Michael Young, 63, was serving a 10-year sentence for possession of material involving the sexual exploitation of children. He had been at the Federal Medical Center for three years. He died at a Texas hospital, a little more than three weeks after experiencing dizziness, nausea and dehydration at the Federal Medical Center, the bureau reported in a news release.

The bureau also reported he had long-term, preexisting medical conditions that made him more at risk for complications from COVID-19.

In Oklahoma, at the Federal Transfer Center, 70 inmates have tested positive, according to the bureau. One died.

The Federal Transfer Center is near the airport in Oklahoma City. It holds inmates being moved from one location in the Bureau of Prisons to another.

Texas sex offender Douglas Allen Reid, 56, became ill after arriving at the Federal Transfer Center in March and died May 2 at an Oklahoma hospital, according to the bureau.

Nolan Clay

Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,... Read more ›

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