- Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is still looking for tips for Carole Baskin’s missing husband Jack “Don” Lewis.
- Sheriff Chronister held a press conference today, sharing some new details about the investigation.
- Lewis’ disappearance was featured extensively in an episode of Tiger King, which suggested Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin was a prime suspect.
By now, almost everyone has experienced the number one quarantine distraction that is the Netflix documentary series ‘Tiger King’. We covered the arrest of “Joe Exotic’ (Joseph Passage-Maldanado) on Crimcourts back when he was arrested, but the documentary takes a 7-episode deep-dive into he and several other big cat zoos. One of the outstanding mysteries from the show is the disappearance of the first husband of one of those zoo owners, Carole Baskin, the founder and owner of Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue.
The disappearance of her husband, millionaire Jack ‘Don’ Lewis in 1997 has never been solved, and now the Hillsborough County Sheriff is using the renewed interest from ‘Tiger King’ to solicit the public for more information from this still-unsolved case. Sheriff Chronister held a press conference today, and revealed some details of interest to watchers of the Tiger King series. The Sheriff indicated that Ms. Baskin is not being as cooperative as she may have been in the past. HCSO asked her to take a polygraph test, and she declined, citing the advice of her attorney. The sheriff also mentioned the meat grinder that had been on the property, and which was referenced in Tiger King. The sheriff says the meat grinder was removed from the property mere days before it was searched, so it was never able to be tested. It’s also worth noting that the septic tank, which was one of Joe exotic’s favorite theories, was installed well after Mr. Lewis’ disappearance, and is not considered relevant to the case. Baskin disputes allegations she was involved in her husband’s disappearance.
For those who haven’t seen the series, Carole Baskin met Don Lewis walking down the street in Tampa one night, and later married him. Lewis was a millionaire who left his previous wife to be with the much younger Baskin. Lewis apparently had one or more mistresses while married to Baskin, and made frequent trips to Costa Rica. Shortly before his disappearance, he had indicated an intention to a friend that he planned to leave Ms. Baskin. However, he was last seen on 8/18/1997, with no explanation, and his vehicle found abandoned at a small airfield. Not long after, Ms. Baskin revealed a trust that provided for her to control his multi-million dollar fortune in case of his death or, suspiciously spelled out, his disappearance. He was declared dead as soon as the 5-year period ran, and Ms. Baskin inherited the vast majority of his fortune.
There are more details in the series, which I finally watched and insist you do the same. But the new revelations, such as the missing meat grinder, will only add to the suspicion engendered by the documentary. Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22-years in federal prison for soliciting Baskin’s murder, along with charges for selling and killing tigers. I leave you with the country ballad video produced by Joe Exotic, which uses a Carole Baskin look-alike to suggest she killed Don Lewis and fed him to her cats.
Posted in Criminal Law, Florida, Movies, Tampa Bay area
Tagged carole baskin, chad chronister, don lewis, don west, joe exotic, netflix, oklahoma, tampa, tiger
All the media buzz right now is about ‘Tiger King’, a true-crime documentary series about a man named Joe Exotic who was convicted of hiring a hit-man to try to kill the rival owner of another big cat sanctuary, Carole Baskin. It even has a Florida connection, as Basin runs Tampa-area Big Cat Rescue! Baskin also disputes a lot of what is covered in the show. I did cover the story when he was first indicted. I need to hurry up and watch this series (I’ve still been working my way through the new season of ‘You’). I gotta have the reference point for all of these memes!
Deborah and Baby
It shouldn’t have to be said, but if you use someone else’s work: you need to get permission. The Hollywood Reporter’s legal roundup today included two copyright cases that probably shouldn’t have had to be litigated. The first was in regard to Baby Drive, the excellent 2017 action film from Edgar Wright that makes extensive use of music to drive the story. It’s great, and it’s up for a few Oscars. The main love interest is named Debora, played by Lily James, and so the film naturally included a 1968 song called “Debora” by T.Rex. Except they didn’t clear it first. The oversight was discovered when they went to get permission to use it on the Soundtrack, and the son of the songwriter sued Sony (T.Rex frontman Marc Bolan had passed away). The matter was resolved at mediation, suggesting that his heir received just compensation for using the song.
And further down in that same article, THR reports that Beyoncé settled with the estate of Anthony Barré, whose spoken word recorded under the name “Messy Mya” was used in her hit song “Formation“. Both of these instances are pretty straightforward copyright infringements, and I suspect the fault is not on Beyoncé or Wright, rather it was likely the studios who failed to get clearance and to compensate the original artists before going forward. Both suits have been settled, and you can resume listening to “Formation” and watching Baby Driver” guilt-free.
Seriously, go watch Baby Driver if you haven’t, it’s excellent.
I guess I’ll throw in a little criminal law- if Baby had been charged in Florida state court (the movie is set in Atlanta, GA), he would’ve been facing mandatory life in prison without parole for Felony Murder (even though he didn’t do the shootings). Regardless of the people who spoke up for him, the movie would not have ended on a positive note if it had been set in Miami…
If you haven’t seen Savannah, Georgia personal injury attorney Jamie Casino’s crazy 2-minute commercial yet, you should immediately go check it out. It only ran in the local market, but has garnered national attention for how over the top it is. Also, it’s pretty well done. It looks like a full Hollywood movie trailer: and something I’d go see.
A lot is unexplained: why is he trashing defense work? Is it ethical to refer to your clients as cold-hearted villains? Apparently he still does defense work, per one of the commenters where I first saw the story, on Deadspin. Look closely for the personal attacks on the police chief. And, why does he vandalize he brother’s grave. This ad couldn’t run in Florida per our bar rules. Consider yourselves lucky, Georgia, and we can all appreciate the over-the-top “art” that is this commercial!
I frequently tell my colleagues at the public defender’s office that they are doing the Lord’s work. They handle many of the toughest criminal cases, and do so while getting paid less than they should: even less than the prosecutors working across the aisle. The clients often don’t like them, don’t trust them, and sometimes even work against them (when they aren’t threatening them). And not only do they have the toughest cases and the most difficult clients, they have overwhelming case loads that stretch even the best of them thin.
The adversarial system does not work without public defenders. Gideon’s Army is a documentary film that spends time with three extraordinary public defenders to reveal the challenges faced on an every day basis. The attorneys featured in the film represent the ideal: the smart, dedicated, hard-working lawyers who fight hard for their clients. Attorney Travis Williams tattoos the names of clients that lose trials and go to prison on his back, so that he will always remember them. Brandy Alexander describes how she doesn’t know how she will face the mother of her young client, whom she believes to be innocent of the robbery for which he stands trial. And June Hardwick finally leaves the public defenders office at the end of the time period filmed, as the law pay and educational debt become too taxing for a single mother.
The greatest insight of the film is that not only are real attorneys profiled, but that real cases are profiled as well. We see Hardwick’s initial meeting with one client, and the agonizing decision to plea to prison time for one of Williams’ young clients. The drama of waiting on the jury verdict for Ms. Alexander’s client is intense and very real. It’s too bad the film doesn’t document more cases: it’s one of few films that actually pull back the curtain on real defense work. That’s important to show the other side of crime and punishment. The film is an answer to the question that defense attorneys get constantly from family and friends, “how do you defend those people.”
The film is paced rather slowly: it would benefit by seeing a little more action. Legal drama is the one of the most compelling subjects to show on film, but only one trial is featured. First time director Dawn Porter selected attorneys who were enrolled in the Southern Public Defender Training Center, and spends time at their group training sessions (which double as de facto group counseling sessions for attorneys on the verge of getting burnt out by the system). They attorneys selected are moving, both for their passion and for the obstacles they face in their daily work as public defenders. One might like to see more of Gideon’s Army in action, as long as the run time was not expanded. There was room to include more courtroom action without trying to make the film a docu-drama.
It’s definitely worth a watch, especially for those who wonder how defense attorneys do they work they do. While the film may not fully answer that question, it will certainly impress with the dedication that these under-appreciated public servants bring to their work.
We have discussed Gideon’s Army a few times on this blog. The film premieres tonight on HBO at 9 pm.
FYI: Gideon is the name of the case and the man who sued and won a Supreme Court ruling that defendants are entitled to be represented by an attorney. Gideon v. Wainwright was decided 50 years ago.