By- Archita Agarwal
A U.S. student detained in Russia was found guilty of assaulting two cops and sentenced to nine years in prison, during a case his family and supporters believe is politically motivated. A Moscow court found Trevor Reed, 29, a student at the University of North Texas and a former Marine who has been detained for nearly a year, guilty of using violence against officialdom, consistent with the Russian Legal Information Agency, the state press agency for legal and court information. He was ordered to pay each officer 100,000 rubles, the agency reported.
Calls to the Golovinsky District Court were unanswered. The institution’s website had no published details about Mr Reed’s case. His lawyer couldn’t’ immediately be reached for comment.
“This is completely a political cause,” Mr Trevor Reed told journalists after the verdict as he stood in a cage in the courtroom wearing a mask, required by Russia’s coronavirus mitigation measures. “I am going to be asking my government for political support.”
Mr Trevor Reed said that after he was arrested he wasn’t asked about fighting with the police. Instead, investigators questioned him about his service in the Marine Corps and his deployments, he said.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said in a statement that “a sentence of nine years, for an alleged crime that so obviously did not occur, is ridiculous.” “I cannot even say ‘miscarriage of justice’ because clearly “justice” wasn’t even considered,” he added. “This was the theatre of the absurd.”
The judgment against Mr Reed follows the high-profile conviction last month of another former Marine, Paul Whelan of Novi, Mich., who was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to 16 years in prison in a case that also drew condemnation from the U.S. Mr Whelan, who holds U.S., U.K., Canadian and Irish citizenship, has maintained his innocence.
The cases of Mr Whelan and Mr Reed and that of private-equity investor Michael Calvey, who was formally arrested in February 2019 and faces embezzlement charges, highlight the legal difficulties of Americans detained in Russia at a time when relations between Moscow and Washington are severely strained.
Mr Sullivan said that he had assured Mr Reed’s father, who attended the hearing, that the U.S. “will not rest until Trevor is freed and returns home,” he said.
According to the investigation, on Aug. 16, 2019, the police received a message that a man was arguing with two women near a house. Officers arrived at the scene and tried to calm the man down, but he showed aggression and resisted the police. While Mr Reed was being transported to the police station, he hit one officer and tore the uniform of another, prosecutors said.
In a statement published last month, Mr Reed’s parents said their son, who had travelled to Moscow to visit his girlfriend and study Russian, “was intoxicated and has no memory of the events that led to his arrest.” The Reeds, who only recently went public about their son’s case, believe the charges against him are false and pointed to what they described as irregularities in the evidence presented during pretrial hearings.
“The prosecution’s case and therefore the evidence presented against Mr Reed were so preposterous that they provoked laughter within the courtroom,” said Mr Sullivan, the ambassador. “Even the judge laughed.”