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Texas roadside zoo owner Jason Clay cooperates with feds for lesser sentence

Jason Clay of Texas and Doc Antle of South Carolina
Jason Clay (left) and Doc Antle have both entered guilty pleas to wildlife trafficking charges.

Texas roadside zoo owner Jason Clay has entered into a plea agreement on wildlife trafficking charges that requires him to cooperate with officials by providing information on criminal activity.


Clay owns Franklin Drive Thru Safari in Franklin, Texas, and he formerly owned East Texas Zoo and Gator Park in Grand Saline, Texas, which he sold after being indicted on felony charges with Doc Antle of Myrtle Beach Safari in June 2022. The pair are accused of trafficking animals in violation of the Endangered Species Act and creating false records.


As part of the agreement, Clay will plead guilty to a single count of violating the Endangered Species Act, which carries a penalty of up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $100,000 and up to a year of supervised release. Documents say the government will be asking for the maximum sentence.


In signing the plea, Clay agreed to provide information to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies about all criminal activities that he has knowledge of. 


“The defendant must provide full, complete and truthful debriefings about these unlawful activities and must fully disclose and provide truthful information to the government including any books, papers or documents or any other items of evidentiary value to the investigation,” according to the agreement. 


Clay also agreed to submit to polygraph examinations and to forfeit a lar gibbon that was referenced in the indictment. 


The agreement to cooperate that Clay signed last week raises the question of whether prosecutors plan to use the information Clay provides to go after other roadside zoo owners who are trafficking endangered species. 


Roadside Zoo News has been reporting on Clay for the past three years after he obtained animals from the now-defunct Special Memories Zoo in Wisconsin, with the animals subsequently disappearing. 


Clay is on 10 years of felony deferred probation for two prior incidents including a 2018 charge for withdrawing $187,000 from a disabled individual’s bank account without the man’s consent and for felony aggravated assault for violently beating a man in a bar brawl. 


The Robertson County Sheriff's Office confirmed in late 2021 that Clay was under investigation related to a 2019 homicide that occurred on his property across the street from Franklin Drive Thru Safari. 


Clay was arrested in Nov. 2022 along with Trisha Denise Meyer, who goes by the alias Mimi Erotic, in relation to the sale of a giraffe in 2018. The pair allegedly accepted money for the giraffe but never provided the animal to the buyer. 


Clay’s roadside zoos have been cited with more than 30 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Read more here


Antle pleaded guilty last month to counts of wildlife trafficking and money laundering charges. He faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release for each count.


Download Jason Clay's plea agreement here:

ClayPleaAgreement
.pdf
Download PDF • 997KB

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