A former US Marine from Texas has been sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony after being accused of assaulting two police officers while drunk.
Trevor Reed, 29, was handed the sentence Thursday at a court in Moscow as the judge said he had caused the officers ‘mental and physical harm’.
Reed told journalists after the verdict that ‘this is completely a political case’, amid suspicion he is being used as a pawn in a potential prisoner swap.
Reed, a student, moved to Moscow in May last year in order to be near girlfriend Alina Tsibulnik, 22, who he had met on holiday in Greece.
The pair lived together for two months and had planned to marry in September, when they were both invited to a party for Tsibulnik’s colleagues on August 15.
At the party, which took place just a few days before he was due to fly out to Texas, Reed says he was encouraged to drink a large amount of vodka.
‘There is also a possibility that he may have been given other substances without his knowledge,’ a statement put out by his family said.
Reed claims to have no knowledge of what happened next, but Tsibulnik said she got the pair a ride home with two of her colleagues in the early hours of the next day.
Along the way Reed became nauseous and tried to get out of the car, prompting the driver to pull over.
While outside the car, Reed began walking close to traffic, prompting the two colleagues to call police and drive away – leaving Tsibulnik and Reed behind.
Two officers eventually arrived and said they would take Reed to a police station to sober up. Tsibulnik says she was told to come back in a couple of hours to collect him.
But when she arrived at the police station around 9am, Tsibulnik says she found Reed being spoken to by two members of Russia’s FSB – successor to the KGB.
She says Reed had been questioned for hours while still under the influence and without a lawyer or translator present.
The officers claimed Reed had assaulted them on the way to the station – pulling on the driver’s arm and causing their car to swerve, before elbowing a second officer who tried to intervene in the face.
According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which spoke to Reed’s father who has attended every day of the trial, the evidence against him is deeply flawed.
CCTV footage did not show the police car swerving while on its way to the station, as the officers had claimed.
The pair also failed to answer basic questions about the journey, changed their stories several times, or claimed to be unable to remember key moments.
‘Almost everything introduced in the trial, that’s in the case, has been fairly well disputed,’ father Joey Reed said.
While the US embassy in Russia has sent a translator along to sit in the trial, Reed said officials have only been in direct contact with his son once – during a two-minute phonecall in June this year.
Following the verdict, the elder Reed said was planning to appeal directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the trial which he said was ‘completely corrupt’.
‘We are not arguing about Russian law, we are arguing about how Russian law is applied,’ he told reporters.
Reed’s case has attracted attention owing to the lengthy sentence faced by a US citizen and speculation in Russian and US media that Reed could become part of a prisoner swap.
In June, Russia convicted US citizen Paul Whelan, also an ex-marine, to 16 years in a penal colony for espionage, prompting speculation he could participate in a prisoner swap.
Whelan’s brother David said in a statement on Wednesday that ‘our family is not privy to government discussions, if there are any, about Paul’s case’.
Sullivan has also raised concerns over the case against Michael Calvey, a high-profile American investor who was arrested last year for allegedly defrauding a Russian bank.