KEY POINTS

  • Reed was sentenced to nine years for an altercation with two Moscow police officers who said he almost cause their car to go off the road after they had detained him for public drunkenness in August 2019
  • Reed said he could not recall the evening and his girlfriend she followed behind the police in a separate car and the police cruiser never swerved as the officers drove with Reed in the backseat
  • U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan said the conviction was politically motivated and the evidence presented against Reed during the trial was "flimsy" at best

Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison Thursday on assault charges, which the veteran and his family have  argued are politically motivated.

“This is not a good story for U.S.-Russia relations,” U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan told NBC News. “And it is not good for encouraging U.S. private citizens and business to visit and invest here if what they did to [Reed] can be done to anyone.”

Reed’s conviction stems from an incident reported in August 2019 while he was visiting his girlfriend in Moscow. Police said Reed was detained for public drunkenness after leaving a party heavily intoxicated with his girlfriend, Alina Tsybulnik, and one of her co-workers. The officers said Reed elbowed one officer’s seat and tugged on the arm of the officer driving, almost causing it to hit a light pole. The prosecutors presented a torn police jacket as evidence.

However, Sullivan criticized the evidence as it was the only piece presented and no one else was present in the car besides Reed and the officer.

“The evidence was so flimsy and preposterous that everyone in the courtroom, even the judge, laughed when it was presented,” Sullivan said. “If this case had been brought in a U.S. court, not only would it have been thrown out, but the prosecutors would be investigated for bringing it forward in the first place.”

Reed and Tsybulnik have both disputed the officers’ statements, with Reed saying he could not recall anything from that night.

Tsybulnik said police only became involved after her co-worker called because Reed appeared physically ill while they were driving home. She said the officers took Reed back to their precinct while she followed with her co-worker and said the car did not swerve once.

“We followed the car and it was driving pretty slow, it wasn’t swerving,” Tsybulnik said. “[Reed] was asleep in the back of the car. That is why they didn’t handcuff him.”

The suspicion among U.S. officials is the Russian government is using Reed, along with Marine veteran Paul Whelan, as potential bargaining chips for Russian nationals convicted of crimes in the U.S.

Whelan was convicted of espionage, accused of obtaining “state secrets” he kept on a flash drive while in Moscow for a wedding in 2018. Whelan argued he was the victim of an entrapment scheme by someone he met online, who his family accused of being a Russian intelligence agent.

He was sentenced to 16 years in prison in June 2020.

US ex-marine Trevor Reed appeared in a cage for defendants in a courtroom in the Russian capital as the judge read out the guilty verdict US ex-marine Trevor Reed appeared in a cage for defendants in a courtroom in the Russian capital as the judge read out the guilty verdict Photo: AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF