Moscow - A former United States Marine was sentenced to nine years in prison in a Russian court on Thursday for assaulting police officers in a drunken incident he says he cannot remember. Trevor Reed, a 29-year-old from Texas, alleges the charges against him were fabricated.
He is theto be handed a lengthy prison sentence in Moscow in less than two months.
Reed was found guilty of causing "mental and physical harm" to two police officers while drunk after a birthday party in Moscow last August. He pleaded not guilty and said that such a harsh sentence makes him think his trial was "completely political." His lawyers said it was the harshest sentence ever handed down for that charge in Russia.
"I think that any type of military service in the United States is basically making you a target to the Russian government to kidnap and charge with crimes that never happened," Reed told CBS News from a cage in the courtroom on Wednesday.
Reed went to Moscow last spring to study Russian and visit his girlfriend, 22-year-old Alina Tsybulnik. They went to a party with Tsybulnik's colleagues in August, where Reed said he was encouraged to, and did, drink a large amount of alcohol. Tsybulnik said that on the way back home, Reed felt sick, got out of their vehicle, and started walking dangerously near to a busy highway. Her friend called the police, hoping that officers would take Reed to a facility where he could sober up.
When Tsybulnik arrived at the police station to pick Reed up a few hours later, he was being interviewed by Federal Security Service (FSB) representatives without a lawyer. Later he was accused of attacking the police officers who picked him up from the side of the highway during their short drive to the station.
Reed was adamant that he has no memory of the evening due his heavy drinking. The prosecution failed to produce any video or photo evidence of the assault, and during the trial, Reed's defense pointed to multiple discrepancies in the officers' testimonies, casting doubt over their allegations.
Reed's father, Joey Reed, said that his son ended up with the police because he was intoxicated, but "once they saw they have a former United States Marine, they said: We are going to keep this guy."
He said he plans to continue seeking justice for his son and will appeal directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This is the second conviction of a former U.S. Marine by a Moscow court in the past two months, afteron espionage charges, which he alleges were trumped up. There are media reports of talks between the United States and Russia about a possible prisoner swap for Whelan.
When Reed's sentence was handed down Thursday, his girlfriend Tsybulnik burst into tears and had to be escorted out of the courtroom by guards. Reed said he was going to ask the U.S. government for political support for himself and Tsybulnik, whom he doesn't want to stay in Russia over safety concerns.