Carole Baskin, who became a pop culture sensation due to Netflix’s docuseries Tiger King, is being sued for defamation by a former assistant.
As part of the lawsuit, the daughters of Baskin’s former husband are seeking more information about what happened to their father, who disappeared mysteriously more than two decades ago. The amended complaint to an earlier lawsuit was filed in state court in Tampa, Florida, by Don Lewis’s three daughters, Donna Pettis, Lynda Sanchez, and Gale Rathbone, as well as his former assistant, Anne McQueen.
It also names Baskin’s current husband and her tiger rescue sanctuary as defendants.(Netflix/PA)
The lawsuit says Baskin defamed Ms McQueen by posting a video diary entry on YouTube earlier this month in which she said her former assistant played a role in Mr Lewis’s disappearance.
Those statements and embezzlement allegations also were made on Baskin’s website, bigcatrescue.org, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also is seeking what is known as a pure bill of discovery, which allows information in a case to be gathered before a civil complaint is filed. “Despite contentions to the contrary, the truth has never been explored in any court and there is a good faith basis to believe the truth will open up many viable remedies,” the lawsuit said.
The pure bill of discovery “will be useful to identify potential defendants and theories of liability and to obtain information necessary for meeting a condition precedent to filing suit”, the lawsuit said.
Mr Lewis’s disappearance remains an open case. In March, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced his office was seeking new leads following the popularity of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.The documentary is about Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, a former Oklahoma zookeeper who was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, who had tried to shut him down, accusing his zoo of abusing animals and selling big cat cubs.
In retaliation, Maldonado-Passage raised questions about Mr Lewis’s disappearance.
The documentary extensively covered Maldonado-Passage’s repeated accusations that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed him to her tigers. Baskin, who founded Big Cat Rescue, has never been charged with any crime and released a statement denying the accusations made in the series.
Baskin, who is a contestant on Dancing With The Stars this season, said nothing when judges of the US TV dance competition made references in jest to the belief that Mr Lewis was killed and fed to the tigers at her sanctuary, the lawsuit said.
Lawyers for Baskin said they could not comment on pending litigation. In an email to the Associated Press, Baskin said she never would joke about the loss of her husband.
“I didn’t kill him or have him killed, so there’s no way I’d associate losing him with that word or concept,” she said. “Any Tiger King reference to killing or murder is strictly based on the fact that so many animal abusers have tried unsuccessfully to kill me either by rallying their minions or hiring hitmen.”