If Jeff Gillooly wanted to put the events leading up to the 1994 Winter Olympics behind him, the film I, Tonya certainly isn’t helping. The ex-husband of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding planned the infamous attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan, but where is he now?
Here’s the backstory: Tonya married Jeff in 1990, and though they divorced in 1993, they stayed close. In the weeks leading up to the Olympics, Jeff and Tonya’s bodyguard at the time, Shawn Eckhardt, hired a man to attack Nancy — apparently hoping to improve Tonya’s chances at the Winter Games. The hired assailant hit Nancy on her left lower thigh with a police baton at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, bruising her leg. While authorities investigated the attack, Nancy overcame the injury and won the silver medal at the Olympics, while Tonya placed eighth.
In a 2008 tell-all, Tonya claimed Jeff threatened her into silence, and subjected her to gang rape. “Jeff and two other guys … decided to drive me up to the mountains, put a gun to my head, and take themselves upon me,” she wrote. “They told me, ‘This is what you are going to say. This is what you are going to do, and if you don’t, you’re not going to be here anymore.’” (Jeff told TODAY that Tonya’s claims are “utterly ridiculous.”)
Jeff eventually accepted a plea deal, pleading guilty to racketeering. Upon his release from prison in 1995, he changed his name to Jeff Stone, Deadspin reports. In the years since, he’s been arrested on charges of assault, DUI, and driving with a suspended license. He has also declared bankruptcy and been sued almost a dozen times. Even worse, his second wife died by suicide in 2005. As of 2013, he had remarried again and was living in Clackamas, OR.
Jeff during an interview in the early ’90s.
“I was a very shy and introverted person back then, believe it or not,” he told Deadspin. “And when that whole thing came and I became the most hated man in America, I kind of had to start to make peace with myself and come to grips with who I was in life. The whole experience, even as bad as it was and going to prison and living that, it was a good life lesson for me, I think.”
He continued, “I think I’m grateful for having experienced something like that. Not many people can say that they have experienced that kind of, well for one thing, public embarrassment, and to have people looking into your life was interesting, and I’ve become grateful for that. I’m a much more assertive person, and I’m much more at ease with myself than I was back then.”
Jeff has stayed out of the public eye since that interview, but Sebastian Stan — who plays him in I, Tonya — spent time with the controversial figure before filming started. “Like anything, you really can’t judge a book by its cover,” Sebastian said in an A.V. Club video. “You have an idea and then there’s something about the person in front of you that kind of makes you take them in as a human being.”