“Gary from Chicago,” whose joyful exuberance during Jimmy Kimmel’s Academy Awards gag Sunday has made him a social media star, was released from prison only two days before the Oscars.
“I spent this afternoon laughing and crying with Gary and Vicky,” his public defender, Karen Nash, wrote on Facebook. “For those who missed it- I spent years working on Gary’s case. He got a life sentence for stealing perfume in 1997, and we finally won release this year. He got out on Friday, and was sight seeing with his lovely fiancé Vicky. If you watched the Oscars, you know the rest.”
She explained, “He was actually given a LIFE sentence under the former 3 strikes law, and served 20 years before we were able to get him out. He is a shining example of why life sentences for non violent crimes are a bad policy! Gary and Vicky are wonderful people who deserved that special night.” She added, “For a man who was treated pretty unfairly by the justice system, he has zero negative energy. He’s all about joy and positivity and patience.”
Identified by Chicago ABC station WLS as Gary Alan Coe, he told the outlet Monday, “Change is possible. It’s a sad day to be in prison for 20 years and not be able to be a dad, granddad to your children. You know what my son told me today, man, and I almost come to tears. He said he’s proud of me. So to hear your children say that they’re proud of me means the world to me.”
An offer to appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” was rescinded, however. “We had scheduled the tourists from Sunday night’s Oscar bit to appear on Monday night’s ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ but we canceled the appearance after producers made the creative decision to focus on other topics from the night’s show,” a representative for the late-night talkfest told Newsday by email.
“They are evaluating it,” Nash wrote on Tuesday, “and we absolutely understand why they needed to do so. Gary is very comfortable with that. I sure do hope they have him back on, he’s got a wonderful story to tell, but we love and respect Jimmy no matter what they decide.”
She also noted, “Sadly we have seen some inaccurate reporting this morning! Gary was not sentenced on a rape charge! He does not have a rape conviction. He served 20 years for petty theft. He has a prior from 1975 for attempted rape when he was a teenager.”
Coe and his fiancee, Vicky Vines, were among about a dozen tour-bus sightseers who were told they had arrived to view a collection of gowns and Academy Awards. When they entered the Dolby Theatre, the group was surprised by the awards in progress. Coe and others briefly mingled with stars including Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington — who jokingly “married” the couple in an impromptu moment.
The comedy stunt was “one hundred percent real,” Nash said on Facebook. “They thought they were going on a sight seeing bus.”