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Tehachapi High graduate sentenced to nine years in Russian prison camp

Trevor Reed.jpg

For the past year and a half, former Tehachapi resident and Marine veteran Trevor Reed has been imprisoned in Moscow, Russia for a crime his parents say he did not commit.

A Marine veteran who graduated from Tehachapi High School in 2010 has spent the last year and a half in a Russian prison after a birthday party in a park led to an altercation with police.

In July 2020, a Russian judge sentenced Trevor Reed, 29, to nine years behind bars on evidence U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan called "flimsy" in an interview with NBC News last July.

Congressional leaders including Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, on Wednesday will hold a news conference calling for Reed's release.

Meanwhile, Trevor's parents, Joey and Paula Reed, fight for their son's safe return to the United States.

"Trevor committed no crime. He was taken by police for the purpose of obtaining a bribe and then when they discovered he was a former Marine, the FSB was called to interrogate him. After that, he was charged with a made-up crime," Joey Reed told Tehachapi News in late February.

The FSB, Federal Security Service, is the principal security agency of Russia. It is similar to the FBI in the United States.

During a vacation in Greece, Trevor met Alina "Lina" Tsybulnik, who was in law school at the time and has since graduated and is a lawyer in Moscow. The couple dated for three years, and in early 2019, he traveled to Moscow to meet her family. In the summer of 2019, Reed was in Moscow again studying the Russian language and visiting Tsybulnik. Just days before he was preparing to return home, he and his girlfriend celebrated her birthday with her co-workers and his friends Aug. 15, 2019.

As is Russian tradition, Trevor joined other party-goers in numerous toasts with Vodka, which his father said he was not used to drinking. In the cab ride home, the Marine veteran became ill and exited the vehicle. Fearing for his safety, another occupant of the car called police for help, said his father.

"The police were supposed to take him to the hospital or call an ambulance, but when they saw that he was an American, they didn't do that and took him to the police station," Joey Reed said.

The following morning, Trevor was waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up at the police station. However as he was waiting in the lobby, he was arrested. According to his father, his son was then questioned without an attorney present, and only asked about his military experience.

"Trevor is accused of trying to hurt police officers while he was intoxicated," Joey Reed said. "The video evidence shown in court showed the police lied and then kept changing their stories. The investigators also destroyed video evidence that would have proven Trevor's innocence beyond a doubt. This is allowed in Russia."

Trevor was charged with Part 2 of Article 318 of The Criminal Code of the Russian Federation: The use of violence dangerous to the life and health against a government official in the performance of their duties.

Currently, Trevor spends 23 hours a day in a cell with six other inmates, awaiting an evaluation and an additional hearing in an appeal to his case, Joey Reed said.

"We are just asking that he gets the same privileges as the other inmates, which he is being denied because he is an American," Joey Reed said.

In his closing statement, Trevor told the judge, "I would rather stay in prison an honest man, than walk away tomorrow a liar and a coward," according to his father.  

Meanwhile in the United States, Trevor's mother, Paula Reed, said she is doing her best to hold it together.

"It's hard. It's very hard... He's a good, sweet kid... Having him gone, like his whole presence just yanked out of my life, it's just hard," Paula told Tehachapi News.

Trevor's mother made a heartfelt plea to her son's captors, asking for his release.

"Let him go. He has done nothing wrong. He was in the prime of his life and just getting ready to finish up school... He was getting ready to start a new life with Lina, and everything was looking good for him... It was all just ripped away for no reason... He needs to be home with his family where he can continue on with his life," said Paula Reed.

Asked about their relationship with their son's girlfriend, Joey said, "First of all, and foremost, we love Lina."

Born in Texas, along with his sister, Taylor, the Reed family moved to Tehachapi when the children were babies and grew up here.

After graduating from Tehachapi High School, Trevor returned to Texas to live with his father who was working there at the time and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he had a perfect record and honorable discharge as a sergeant, according to his father. Meanwhile, his mother and sister, Taylor Reed, remained in Tehachapi so that Taylor could finish her senior year at Tehachapi High School.

According to his father, actions have been taken on Trevor's behalf since his investigation and trial by the U.S. government including public statements by Sullivan, congressmen and senators, the Secretary of State, and the White House.

McCarthy was a co-sponsor of House Resolution 1115 calling for Trevor's release.

“Trevor Reed’s treatment by the Russian judicial system has been cruel and unjust," McCarthy wrote in an email to Tehachapi News last week. "Last Congress, I joined my colleagues in calling for his immediate release and supported the Trump Administration’s effort to bring Trevor home. I am proud to cosponsor this call to action again and will work with my colleagues and with the Biden administration so that Trevor’s release can be secured quickly and he can be back with his family as soon as possible."

Reed is one of two Americans imprisoned in Russia, along with Michigan corporate executive Paul Whelan. Two additional Americans are missing, including Mark Frerich who is an abducted contractor believed held by a Taliban-linked militant group and journalist Austin Tice, who went missing in Syria in 2012, according to the Associated Press.

For more information about Trevor Reed's case, visit freetrevorreed.com and on Twitter @FreeTrevorReed. A gofundme page (gofundme.com/f/free-trevor-reed) has also been established to help with rising legal fees.

The Reed family encourages Trevor's classmates and friends to reach out to him via Twitter.

Said his father, "He wants everyone to know that he loves them and thanks them for their support."