The former zoo keeper’s legal team had been “100% confident” he would be set free from his 22-year prison sentence for plotting to have Carole murdered, along with 17 federal charges of animal abuse.
Such was their confidence, they had even hired a limo to be on standby near the Texas prison to transport Exotic – real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage – after his release.
However, he remains behind bars after he was not among the 143 people Trump released from the legal consequences of their offences as one of the outgoing president’s last acts as US leader on Tuesday.
Reacting to the news, Carole told Fox News: “I’m taking a deep breath because I feel such a sense of relief.
“From the very time that he was sentenced I have worried about there being a presidential pardon that could undo all of the hard work that went into bringing this person to justice.
“When today at noon a new president was sworn in, I felt like I was finally safe from that threat.
“He absolutely belongs behind bars.”
She added to Buzzfeed News: “I think only Joe’s team and the media were ever even thinking about a pardon for Joe.
“There is no benefit, other than a feeble attempt to deflect attention.”
Exotic, who rose to international infamy after appearing in the 2020 Netflix documentary series Tiger King, was convicted in 2019 for the hire to kill plot.
His team began lobbying for a presidential pardon last year, after Trump was asked about Exotic’s case during a press conference.
It came after his son Donald Trump Jr’s appearance on a US radio show, where he joked he was trying to convince his father to pardon Exotic.
While admitting he knew “nothing” about the case, Trump said he would “take a look”.
Two months later, Trump said he had watched a “couple” of episodes of Tiger King, and while he did not suggest he was considering a pardon, he remarked: “That’s a whole strange deal going on. I’ll tell you that’s a strange guy and a lot of strange people surrounding him.”