Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino is a changed man after spending the better part of a year behind bars.
The 37-year-old “Jersey Shore” star was released from federal prison on Sept. 12 after serving eight months for tax evasion. Sorrentino opened up about his newfound appreciation for his freedom while speaking to Entertainment Tonight this week for his first post-prison interview,
“I definitely feel like I'm a changed man,” he told the outlet.
“Oh my God, to be a free man, to be honest with you, it’s awesome,” he said later. “It’s fantastic. I have my beautiful wife next to me. I’m healthy, I’m sober, back at work with my best friends on the number one show on MTV and just living the dream.”
Prison, Sorrentino said, "is not like the movie," but he survived by being disciplined and focusing on health, fitness, and reading.
Sorrentino and his brother Marc were both indicted in 2014 for failing to pay taxes on $8.9 million in income Sorrentino earned, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey confirmed in a release. They were then indicted again in 2017 on charges that included tax evasion and structuring and falsifying records, according to Fox News.
Sorrentino pled guilty to tax evasion last January, while his brother pled guilty to one count of aiding in the preparation of a false and fraudulent tax return, PEOPLE reports. In addition to being ordered to pay thousands of dollars in fines and restitution, the “Jersey Shore” star was sentenced to serve eight months in federal prison, which would be followed by two years of supervised release, while his brother was handed a two-year bid, according to the outlet.
But now that Sorrentino has served his time, he’s a lot more grateful for the good things in his life, he explained to Entertainment Tonight.
“You sort of take your freedom for granted sometimes,” he said. “Once you get out, you are taking advantage [of] every minute. Every second, every meal, every conversation with my beautiful wife, with my friends. I love my job, so I am on such an awesome road and we are very excited to see what the future has to offer.”
For Sorrentino and wife Lauren, the future may include building their family. Shortly after Sorrentino’s release, the couple released a statement celebrating Sorrentino’s freedom and suggesting that having children may be next on their to-do list.
“We are elated to finally close this chapter of our life. Thank you to our family, friends and fans for the continuous love and support during this time, it brought us so much peace and comfort,” reads a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “We look forward to continuing our life as husband and wife and working on baby situations!”
The couple, who wed last November, presented a united front during Sorrentino’s legal troubles. The reality TV veteran livestreamed his drive to the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York in January — the facility where he served his time — and his wife held the camera.
“I’m just gonna handle this and put this behind me and move forward,” he said during the somewhat somber streaming session.
Keeping a positive attitude throughout the ordeal seems to have been a priority for Sorrentino, however, who told Entertainment Tonight that he hoped his handling of the situation would serve as a positive example for any young people facing tough situations of their own.
“Our main goal throughout the whole process was to handle it with grace and class,” he said. “Not only for ourselves but to show the young generation out there how to handle adversity and move forward and continue to be the best, even if you make mistakes.”
He went on to describe what he went through as a “very uncomfortable situation,” but insisted that he refused to feel sorry for himself.
While he was in prison, his latest project, “Jersey Shore: Family Vacation,” aired on television, and he was able to watch himself every week, he explained.
“I was just proud of myself that, even under extreme stress and adversity, I was still able to do my job and do it well,” he said. “And still able to earn an income while in prison.”
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