From their Texas home, Joey and Paula Reed sit in front of a wooden bookcase. Sitting on a shelf is a photograph of their son, Trevor. He is in uniform, next to former President Barack Obama.
Paula reflects on her son’s absence. “The longer he is gone, the more I think about what it is doing to him, how it's affecting his future, what he's feeling and what he's going through,” she said. “It's just been really really hard to have him gone that long and especially knowing he is innocent, he has to come home.”
Reed was arrested by Russian police in 2019 following a drunken party in Moscow where he was visiting his girlfriend.
Police initially said they were taking him to sober up at the station. But according to Reed’s family, after agents from Russia’s intelligence agency questioned Reed, he was charged with assaulting a police officer. He was put on trial on charges that U.S. officials have said were “absurd.” Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Reed’s family says he was hospitalized with COVID-19 for two weeks without U.S. consular access or contact with his family. Reed’s parents said he began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms in May 2021 and his condition worsened. His family said that the U.S. Embassy had previously requested permission to vaccinate the 29-year-old and Russian officials refused.
After Reed’s appeal was denied, he was transferred from a Moscow prison to a prison camp in Mordovia, which is about 350 miles from Moscow.
“There is no speaking to him, no letter, no phone calls, he's now being deprived of all of those things,” his father said. Joey and Paula get updates about their son from his Russian attorney. “Now he's in a labor camp. It's an old Gulag used in the Stalin era. He's in solitary confinement in a small room by himself because he is refusing to participate in the forced labor,” said Joey Reed.
Democratic Congressman Juan Vargas represents the 51st District of California and is on the Foreign Affairs Committee. “We've been working with the State Department. We also helped sponsor this resolution that says he should be released immediately because he is there under false pretenses,” said Vargas, referring to Trevor Reed. He continued, “The reality is he's caught in this geopolitical game between superpowers and regional powers. He shouldn't be in prison. It's very, very hard to get the Russians to change their minds.”
Vargas is referring to House Resolution 186, which calls for the immediate release of Trevor Reed. The resolution passed the House in June.
In a statement to NBC7 Investigates, Congresswoman Sara Jacobs, who represents the 53rd District and is also on the Foreign Affairs Committee wrote, “My team and I remain concerned about Trevor Reed’s case – he has been treated unjustly and deprived of his fundamental freedoms. We have been in touch with the State Department on their efforts to push for his immediate release. Our thoughts are with his friends and family during this difficult time, and we will continue to work with the Administration to get him freed.”
We’re told Russia has suggested trading Reed and another ex-marine, Paul Whelan, for Russians serving prison sentences in the U.S.
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Reed’s and Whelan’s detentions and the possibility of a prisoner swap at their summit in Switzerland in June. But with the crisis in Afghanistan, Reed’s parents worry their son’s case will not be a priority.
“With the change in this Afghanistan situation we feel certain that that has been pushed to the back burner for a while,” Reed’s mother said. “We are still hopeful that it can be accomplished, but don’t think it will be anytime soon. I'm not saying that the Afghanistan thing is not worthy, it is. But we know that will slow any negotiations for Trevor coming home.”
Joey and Paula Reed are hoping to meet with the Secretary of State and President Joe Biden in person to plead their son’s case.
Joey Reed said, “There are things that the United States wants from Russia and there are things Russia wants from the United States. There's got to be some way to come up with an agreement.”