MOSCOW – A Russian court on Thursday ruled against a 29-year-old former U.S. Marine who was detained last year on charges of assaulting a police officer after a night of drinking in Moscow, sentencing him to nine years in a Russian prison.
Trevor Reed’s nine-year sentence is close to the maximum sentence of 10 years. He is already under Russian arrest and has been awaiting trial for almost a year. Prosecutors on Wednesday asked for 9 years and 8 months.
The accused, his family and his Russian girlfriend all deny the charges. The US ambassador to Russia called the evidence far-fetched. And they all claim that he was just the last example of American citizens being unjustly accused in Russia.
Ambassador John Sullivan told NBC News that Americans detained in Russia who are being treated unfairly for the trial are becoming an increasingly common problem ̵1; a stern warning to Americans considering visiting or doing business in Russia.
“This is not a good story for US-Russian relations,” Sullivan said in a telephone interview shortly after sentencing. “And it’s not good to encourage private individuals and US businesses to visit and invest here if they did [Reed] you can do it for anyone. “
During Wednesday’s closing arguments, Reed said he did not plead guilty to a crime he did not commit.
“I think it would be unethical and immoral to plead guilty to a crime I did not commit,” he said in his closing statement ahead of the verdict. “If I am sentenced to prison, I would rather stay in prison than release a liar and a coward tomorrow.”
Sullivan said the evidence against Reed strained credibility.
“The evidence was so bizarre and absurd that everyone in the courtroom, even the judge, laughed when it was presented,” Sullivan said. “If this case had been filed in a US court, not only would it have been dropped, but prosecutors would have been investigated for prosecuting her in the first place.”
Other cases, such as another former U.S. Marine, Paul Whelan, have attracted much more political and media attention, probably because of the nature of the charges against Whelan – espionage – and the open discussion about using him as a chip-trading United States.
But Reed’s father, Joey, spent last year in Moscow defending his son, trying to keep his case from falling below the radar.. Russian courts have extremely high convictions, and acquittals are rare.
“I’m nervous and worried,” Paula’s mother told Reed in a television interview with NBC News on Tuesday. “Of course, I tried to prepare for the worst, but if you have a hard time thinking about it … I’m probably not ready. You just feel hopeless and you’re going to do what you’re going to do. “
The embassy sent representatives to each of Reed’s hearings, but tended to take a more restrained public stance on the trial than was the case in Whelan’s case, and Sullivan saw that he often took a public stand against litigation.
Sullivan told NBC News that part of the reason was that he hoped it could prevent Reid’s case from becoming too politicized.
“I did not make public statements like I do in other cases, just because I actually gave the Russian judiciary the opportunity to do justice with Reed,” he said.
The Texas-born Reed spent the summer of 2019 in Moscow studying Russian and visiting his girlfriend, a lawyer in Moscow, and was preparing to return home last August, his family said. But just days before his return, he celebrated the night with his friends and colleagues.
Alina Tsybulnyk, Reed’s girlfriend, said in an interview that he felt sick when a colleague took the two of them home. The driver stopped the car, Reed and Onion got out, and then the driver called the police when it became clear that Reed was in poor condition.
“I had no idea to call the police,” Tsibulnyk said. “It simply came to our notice then. She had never met Trevor before and did not want to fight it. He was in trouble, he had blue lips, and he needed medical help, and he didn’t answer me, he didn’t know where he was. “
When police arrived, they put Reed in the back of their car and then drove him to the police station, Tsibulnyk said. According to police, Reed became a fighter while driving and pulled the driver’s arm – making the car turn.
He is accused of threatening the lives of police officers, as well as tilting a passenger in the seat. Tsybulnyk says police handed the jacket to the court with a torn arm, trying to show that he had slipped the driver.
She says it’s just impossible.
“We followed the car and it drove quite slowly, it didn’t come back,” she said. “[Reed] slept in the back of the car. That’s why they didn’t handcuff him. “
Reed, meanwhile, said he had not mentioned the incident in previous interviews, a statement his family confirmed to NBC News.
Joey Reed, a Texas firefighter, was deeply acquainted with the evidence against his son while renting an apartment in Moscow – exposing even the closure of COVID-19, which led to the cessation of life in the Russian capital in April and May, he said.
“I told him he had to be the father of the year,” Paula Reed said of her husband’s efforts.