Tiger King’s Joe Exotic Claims He Was Sexually Assaulted in Prison: Report

In his latest attempt to appeal for a presidential pardon, Tiger King's Joe Exotic now claims he has been sexually assaulted by prison guards.

According to TMZ, the disgraced former zookeeper, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, wrote a lengthy letter to President Donald Trump this week, making a case for why he thinks he should be granted a pardon.

He is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence after being convicted in April 2019 of plotting a murder-for-hire against his nemesis, animal rights activist Carole Baskin, among other charges. ( Baskin is currently set to compete on the new season of Dancing with the Stars.)

In the reportedly 257-page plea to the President, Maldonado-Passage, 57, says he's been abused to the point that his hands are damaged, and claims he has been sexually assaulted by prison guards.

The subject of Netflix's Emmy-nominated docuseries is being held at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. A spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Prisons told PEOPLE in a statement, "There was no such assault."

Elsewhere in the memo to the White House, Maldonado-Passage wrote to Trump, according to TMZ: "Allow me to make you proud, to make America proud, to make the world proud. Be my hero please."

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On his Instagram account, Maldonado-Passage's team is rallying followers to write letters in support of pardoning him. Earlier this week, a post announced that a group would be headed to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to formally deliver his letter.

"Team Tiger will be heading back to DC on Wednesday to deliver my Pardon letter. I can’t say it enough how thankful I am to finally have a defense team who cares about my truth…..#freejoeexotic," read the caption, written on Maldonado-Passage's behalf.

Maldonado-Passage's husband, Dillon Passage, told PEOPLE in April that he wrote a memoir while incarcerated, which he said will show a "different side" of the Joe Exotic image. The book, said Passage, covers his troubled childhood.

“It’s a really heartbreaking story, and a lot of people are going to see a different side of Joe because of this,” he said. “I cried. I cried and cried and cried. It was so tragic because it’s nothing he ever spoke to me about in person. It’s very personal, and it’s definitely a story that nobody thought would have happened. It’s absolutely tragic. And Joe really gets his story out there and lets people know what happened to him.”

While Passage said he’s “not going to give any spoilers” about details of the book, he revealed that Maldonado-Passage endured “a lot of mental, physical abuse, sexual abuse. It was not good. I’ve read all of it. It’s very heartbreaking. And he did not have a very good childhood.”

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to online.rainn.org.

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