Rep. Kevin McCarthy's message to Russian authorities was clear: The United States will not tolerate its citizens being held as political pawns.
The Bakersfield Republican and other lawmakers held a virtual news conference Wednesday afternoon calling for the release from a Russian prison of Trevor Reed, a Tehachapi native and former Texas resident, along with other U.S. citizens.
"I've heard from constituents in Tehachapi — families and children who grew up with Trevor. They make the case about what an amazing man he was and is," McCarthy said.
McCarthy called Reed's treatment by the Russian judicial system "nothing short of cruel."
McCarthy was joined by Reed’s parents, Paula and Joey Reed, in addition to House Foreign Affairs Committee Lead Republican Michael McCaul, R-Texas; Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas.
The legislators were calling for the release of Reed, a U.S. Marine veteran who is being detained as a political prisoner in Russia.
Earlier this month, Reps. McCaul and Pfluger introduced a bipartisan resolution calling for Reed's immediate release, which passed in the House.
In July 2020, a Russian judge sentenced Reed, 29, to nine years behind bars after a birthday party for his girlfriend, Alina "Lina" Tsybulnik, held Aug. 15, 2019 led to an altercation with police.
As is Russian tradition, Reed joined other party-goers in numerous toasts with Vodka, which his father said he was not used to drinking. In the cab ride home, Reed became ill and exited the vehicle. Fearing for his safety, another occupant of the car called police for help.
"Trevor should not spend a decade of his life in a Russian prison for a crime that he did not commit," Pfluger said Wednesday.
Although Reed was initially detained for intoxication, Pfluger said Russian authorities upped the charges to endangering the lives of a police officer after discovering he was a Marine veteran.
"The charges were clearly politically motivated, and the entire process was a scam," Pfluger said. "The accusations and lack of evidence was so ridiculous, that even a Russian judge erupted in laughter in the courtroom during the trial."
Pfluger quoted U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan as saying that "justice was not even considered in this case" and described the trial as "The Theater of the Absurd."
Cornyn said the purpose of the news conference was to demand justice for the Marine veteran who had been unlawfully detained for going on two years.
"One day is too long," Cornyn said, adding that the evidence does not support the charges against Reed.
Cornyn went on to say that he was moved by the strength displayed by Reed's mother, Paula Reed.
"It's hard for any of us to fathom what it would be like to have a loved one falsely accused of these charges and sitting in a foreign prison," Cornyn said.
McCaul called Trevor Reed an American hero who proudly served his country as a U.S. Marine.
"He is being held as a political pawn as a hostage for a crime that he did not commit. His trial was a kangaroo court," McCaul said, adding, "We are here today to send a strong message. America will not tolerate this corrupt regime holding U.S. citizens hostage under false pretenses. The nightmare must end immediately."
Joey and Paula Reed said their son is awaiting the first of his appeals, but hold little hope for its success.
"We want the people of the United States to know that our son is not guilty, and it's not just because we are his parents that we believe that, but based on the evidence and expert witnesses," Joey Reed said.
McCarthy said he and other legislators will continue to work with the Biden administration and hopes that the Russian government "will see what is right."
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 Reed's classmates and friends to reach out to him via Twitter.