This article was originally published July 30, 2020, on RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty.
A court in Moscow has sentenced former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed to nine years in prison after finding him guilty of assaulting two police officers, a charge that he refused to admit.
Judge Dmitry Arnaut of Moscow’s Golovinsky District Court on July 30 also ordered Reed to pay 150,000 rubles ($2,000) to each police officer as compensation for moral damage.
U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan condemned the conviction and sentencing as “theatre of the absurd,” saying they were based “on evidence so ridiculous that even the judge laughed in court.”
The 29-year old Reed, who is from Texas, traveled to Moscow in May 2019 to study Russian and spend time with his Russian girlfriend, Alina Tsybulnik.
On August 15, several days before his trip back to Texas, Reed and his girlfriend attended a party organized by her colleagues. He claims to have no memory of what happened following the party, where he says he was encouraged to drink large quantities of vodka.
In a car going home afterward, Reed said he felt unwell, asked the driver to stop, and got out. His girlfriend’s co-worker called police and left the site with another colleague, leaving Tsybulnik alone with Reed.
Two police officers arrived at the scene and took Reed in to sober up, telling Tsybulnik to come back in a few hours and pick him up.
Tsybulnik told RFE/RL that when she arrived at the police station later, Reed was being questioned, without a lawyer or interpreter present, by two men who introduced themselves as employees of the Federal Security Service (FSB).
Tsybulnik was told that her boyfriend was accused of endangering the lives of the policemen who brought him in by yanking the driver’s arm and elbowing another officer who tried to intervene.
However, the case against Reed has been marred by inconsistencies. Video evidence reviewed in court appeared to show no evidence that the police vehicle swerved as a result of Reed’s actions, as alleged by the police officers.
Speaking before the judge, the officers themselves have claimed to have no memory of key moments in the journey, and have retracted parts of their statements on several occasions or failed to answer simple questions from Reed’s defense team.
Reed is one of several American citizens to face trial in Russia in recent years on charges that their families, supporters, and in some cases the U.S. government have said appear trumped up.
Last month, another former U.S. Marine, 50-year-old Paul Whelan, was sentenced by a court in Moscow to 16 years in prison for espionage which he, his supporters, and the U.S. government have questioned.
Whelan’s lawyers said earlier in the month that their client might be exchanged for Russian nationals held in the United States, namely Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving 20 years on a conviction of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine, and Viktor Bout, jailed in the United States for illegal weapons trafficking.
A year ago, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov proposed a prisoner swap that would involve the release of Yaroshenko in the United States and a U.S. national held in Russia. Ryabkov did not specify whom he meant, but some took the comment as evidence that Moscow is using Americans like Reed as bargaining chips amid tensions with Washington.
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