“Gary from Chicago,” the charming man who went straight from a tour bus to the Oscars stage during a bit by host Jimmy Kimmel, is apparently a registered sex offender who just got out of prison. Still, the story is more complicated than it seems.
Gary Allan Coe, 59, was charged with attempted rape in 1975 as a teenager, but he was actually imprisoned on a charge of stealing a $79 bottle of perfume, according to the New York Daily News.
“He does not have a rape conviction. He served 20 years for petty theft,” said his lawyer Karen Nash on Facebook. “He has a prior from 1975 for attempted rape when he was a teenager.”
His absurdly long prison sentence for the most minor of crimes was due to the 90s-era three strikes rule, Nash said.
“He actually got LIFE for petty theft, we got him out after he had served 20,” Nash wrote.
Court records show that Coe allegedly attempted to rape a woman as a teenager by knocking her to the ground and dragging her into bushes, according to reporting by Inside Edition. He remains on California’s sex offender registry.
Coe was released from prison only last Thursday—three days before the Oscars, a revelation that apparently kept him from being invited to Kimmel's talk show, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
In a piece for The Washington Post called “‘Gary from Chicago,’ the Oscars’s best meme, didn’t ask for your attention,” writer Abby Ohlheiser paints a picture of a man who is truly a reformed person, one who has gotten sober, met his fiancée, and became religious.
“I’m a changed man,” Coe said to the Post. “Anybody who wants to change their lives can. I have remorse. It is my past. Today, I am a brand new man.”