His lawyers had even hired a limousine to be on standby near the Texas prison where the former zoo keeper is serving a 22-year sentence for plotting to have animal rights activist Carole Baskin murdered.
However, Exotic will not be riding in it as 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.
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, along with 17 federal charges of animal abuse.
His legal team previously told Metro they had “good reason to believe” Exotic – real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage – would be pardoned.
Eric Love, the private investigator leading his bid for freedom, said: “We’re confident enough we already have a limousine about half a mile from the prison. We are really in action mode right now.”
He continued: “I think the president has sided with us and I believe it will take most of the limelight away from president-elect Joe Biden.”
Love added that he had also prepared a video message to Trump, thanking him for granting Exotic a pardon in anticipation of the announcement.
In April last year, Trump was asked about Exotic’s case during a press conference, after his son Donald Trump Jr. joked on a radio show that he was lobbying the president for a pardon.
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.”
A juror from Exotic’s trial previously slammed the Netflix series for allowing people to believe he was a victim.
“Don’t believe everything you see because there was so much more to it than what they’re showing you,” a juror, identified only as Kristin, told Nancy Grace of Fox Nation in April.
Last year, Exotic was also forced to hand his beloved zoo over to Baskin, as part of a $1 million settlement he was ordered to pay her.
The GW Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Oklahoma had been left by Exotic to his former business partner – and fellow Tiger King star – Jeff Lowe and his mother, but a judge ruled that this transfer was fraudulent.