Russia jails former U.S. Marine for nine years on police assault charge

By Tom Balmforth and Gennady Novik

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian court sentenced a former U.S. Marine to nine years in jail on Thursday after convicting him of endangering the lives of two police officers in a trial the United States criticised as “theater of the absurd” and lacking serious evidence.

Trevor Reed, a student at the University of North Texas, said he could not remember the events of last summer because he was drunk when he was detained after leaving a party in Moscow.

But he denied the charge in court after hearing what he said was the flimsy evidence presented during the trial and the investigation’s failure to obtain video evidence that could prove his innocence.

“It’s clearly political,” he told reporters in court.

The conviction is likely to spur media speculation that Reed could become part of a possible prisoner swap reportedly being negotiated by Moscow and Washington. Neither side has confirmed such talks are taking place.

Russia convicted U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, also a former Marine, last month of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in jail. Whelan denied wrongdoing. U.S. investor Michael Calvey is being held under house arrest on fraud charges he denies.

Whelan’s lawyer has said he believes Moscow wants to exchange Whelan for an arms dealer, Viktor Bout, and another Russian held in U.S. prisons.

Prosecutors accused Reed of grabbing a police officer who was behind the wheel of a car after the American was detained on Aug. 15. That, they said, caused the vehicle to swerve dangerously. He was also accused of elbowing a second officer.

Reed said he travelled to Moscow in May last year to learn Russian and see his Russian girlfriend. She burst into tears in court and was escorted outside after swearing loudly during the verdict.

“This conviction, and a sentence of nine years, for an alleged crime that so obviously did not occur, is ridiculous,” said John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow. “This was theater of the absurd.”

Reed’s father, Joey, said he planned to appeal publicly to President Vladimir Putin to intervene in the case.

“We believe (this case) happened for one reason – he stumbled him into police custody because he was intoxicated, and once they saw they had a former U.S. Marine they said ‘We’re gonna keep this guy’,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Maxim Rodionov and Dmitriy Turlyun; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn and Timothy Heritage)

U.S. asks Russia to free incarcerated ex-Marine Paul Whelan

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A senior U.S. diplomat on Monday called for Russia to free Paul Whelan, a former Marine accused by Moscow of espionage, saying there was no evidence against him and he had committed no crime.

Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman made the pre-Christmas appeal to Russia outside a Moscow prison after he and diplomats from Britain, Canada and Ireland had visited Whelan.

Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained by agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28 last year.

Moscow says Whelan was caught red-handed with a computer flash drive containing classified information. Whelan says he was set up in a sting and had thought the drive, given to him by a Russian acquaintance, contained holiday photos.

He has been held in pre-trial detention while investigators look into his case.

Gorman urged Russia to allow an outside doctor to examine Whelan, who has a medical condition, and for the former Marine to be allowed to phone his parents, something he has so far been denied.

“In a case where there is no evidence and no crime it’s time to have him released,” Gorman said.

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn,; Editing by Ed Osmond)

Baton Rouge shooter was ex-marine who denied ties to any group

A police officer wears a black band of mourning over his shield while attending a vigil after a fatal shooting of Baton Rouge policemen, at Saint John the Baptist Church in Zachary

By Mark Hosenball and Kevin Murphy

WASHINGTON/KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) – The gunman who killed three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Sunday was a former U.S. Marine sergeant who served in Iraq and made the dean’s list in college, government officials with knowledge of the case said.

The suspect, Gavin Eugene Long, 29, who also wounded three other officers, was from Kansas City, Missouri, a source familiar with the investigation told Reuters. He was divorced and living in a working-class neighborhood, and Missouri records show he had no criminal history.

It was not immediately clear how Long, who was black, ended up in Baton Rouge, where police killed him in a shootout on his 29th birthday, according to media reports. The city has become a flashpoint for protests after police shot and killed Alton Sterling, a black man, outside a convenience store there on July 5.

A website, social media accounts and YouTube videos that appear tied to Long include complaints about police abuse of African-Americans and indicate he recently joined demonstrations in Dallas, where a black former U.S. Army reservist killed five officers two days after Sterling’s death.

In a YouTube video, Long praised the killing of the Dallas officers and said, “It’s justice.” He also posted a separate video on July 8, in which he described himself as a former Christian, former member of the Nation of Islam and then repeatedly stated he was now not affiliated with any group.

“They’ll try to put you with ISIS or some other terrorist group,” he said. “No. I’m affiliated with the spirit of justice. Nothing else.”

A website named “convoswithcosmo” that features self-help, health and relationship advice was owned by a Gavin Long at a Kansas City address, according to online records. As of Sunday night, police in Kansas City had cordoned off the block where that address is located. That address also appears in local court records for a Gavin Long in two separate civil cases.

In a YouTube video posted on July 10, the host of “Convos with Cosmo” says he is in Dallas and had gone to the city to join protests there. The man says that African-Americans are oppressed and questions why white American revolutionaries are praised for fighting their oppressors but African ones are not.

Later in the video, he suggests that only violence and financial pressure will cause change.

“We know what it’s going to take. It’s only fighting back or money. That’s all they care about,” he says to the camera. “Revenue and blood, revenue and blood, revenue and blood. Nothing else.”

A government source said federal officials were reviewing the web postings but could not definitively link them to Long.


Long was affiliated with the anti-government New Freedom Group, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person briefed on the investigation. A spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, said she had no information about such a group.

Reuters was not able to confirm the existence of the New Freedom Group.

Records provided by the U.S. Marines show Long received a number of awards during his five years in the military, including a good conduct medal.

He served in the Marines from August 2005 to August 2010 as a data network specialist and rose to the rank of sergeant, according to Yvonne Carlock, deputy public affairs officer for the Marines. Long was deployed to Iraq from June 2008 to January 2009.

CBS News reported that he left the Marines with an honorable discharge, but Carlock would not confirm that detail.

Public records show Long had lived in Kansas City and Grandview, Missouri, as well as San Diego and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

He divorced his wife in 2011, with no children at the time, according to Missouri court records. A home that appears to be the last-known address for his ex-wife was vacant on Sunday.

No relatives for Long could be reached by telephone.

Long was a defendant in a case involving delinquent city taxes that was filed in March and dismissed in June, according to court records.

He attended the University of Alabama for one semester in spring 2012 and made the dean’s list for academic achievement, said university spokeswoman Monica Watts.

“The university police had no interaction with him while he was a student,” she said in an email.

(Additional reporting by David Rohde, Ian Simpson and Brendan O’Brien; Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Peter Cooney and Clarence Fernandez)