(NewsNation) — The United States secured the release of a Texas Marine veteran from a Moscow prison after carrying out an unexpected prisoner exchange with Russia Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Reed’s parents, an elated Joey and Paula, spoke to reporters, about their son’s long-awaited release from Russian prison.
While they are still waiting to here from the Defense Department where Trevor will be taken in the U.S., one thing is for sure his mother said, “we’re gonna be there.”
Paula Reed said Trevor’s return home was the “perfect” Mother’s Day gift and upon hearing he was coming home, via a phone call they received at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, the day immediately became “almost as good as the day he was born.”
Trevor will be flown to the United States from Turkey and will be taken to a military hospital where he will receive both medical treatment and mental counseling upon his arrival. His parents said he could stay at the hospital for a couple of weeks before being brought home.
In the more immediate future however, they were just excited knowing they would soon get to put their arms around their son.
While Wednesday was a joyous occasion for the Reeds, the three years Trevor sat in Russian prison on charges he had assaulted a peace officer, were long and harrowing for the family.
News footage showed Trevor on Wednesday exiting the Russian airplane; the sickly site of him brought tears to his parents eyes. Trevor, who when he was in the United States was in great shape his parents said, exited the airplane hunched over, had trouble walking and looked malnourished, sporting sunken eyes.
The image of Trevor his parents were seeing was devastating for them to witness but it was nonetheless an image that made sense. Trevor, they said, endured squalid conditions in Russian prison. He was underfed, being given meals of fish so disgusting not even the prison’s stray cats would eat it, cabbage and a potato.
He had fallen ill, which was part of the reason Russia cited for his release. U.S. doctors had him quarantined on the plane where they were testing him for diseases including tuberculosis.
“Immediate tears came to my face because he just did not look like himself,” Paula Reed said.
The U.S., for its part, returned Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who’d been serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. He was originally arrested in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to the U.S.
The Justice Department has described Yaroshenko as “an experienced international drug trafficker” who conspired to distribute thousands of kilograms of cocaine around the world.
President Joe Biden, who met with Reed’s parents last month in Washington, trumpeted Reed’s release and noted without elaboration that, “the negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.” The Russian foreign ministry described the exchange as the, “result of a long negotiation process.”
Reed’s parents on Wednesday thanked Biden for the work he had done and the contact he had with the family during the process of returning Trevor home. Joey Reed said Americans needed to put politics aside when evaluating a situation like Trevor’s saying these were American issues, not Republican and Democrat issues.
“Anyone who says he is not a compassionate or a kind man is a liar or just an idiot,” Joey Reed said of Biden.
It’s not typical for the U.S. to take part in such exchanges for fear that it might encourage foreign governments to take Americans as prisoners, extract concessions and create a potential false equivalency between an unjustly detained American — which U.S. officials believe Reed was — and a properly convicted criminal.
Reed’s parents constantly worried the Russian’s would add more false charges to Trevor’s rap sheet in an effort to keep him there longer than his 9-year sentence, a common move by Russians, Joey Reed said.
Russian authorities forced Trevor to write all his letters to his parents in Russian and only allowed him to have two books in English, subsequently Reed is now fluent in Russian, the only positive to come from his ordeal, his father said.
In this case, though, the U.S. decided the deal made sense in part because Yaroshenko had already served a long portion of his prison sentence, which has now been commuted.
In a statement, the Reed family thanked Biden “for making the decision to bring Trevor home” as well as other administration officials and Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who the family said traveled to Moscow in the hours before the Ukraine war began in hopes of securing Reed’s release.
Reed, a 30-year-old former Marine from Texas, was arrested in the summer of 2019 after Russian authorities said he assaulted an officer while being driven by police to a police station following a night of heavy drinking.
He was later sentenced to nine years in prison, though his family maintained his innocence and the U.S. government described him as unjustly detained and expressed concern about his declining health.
“Today, our prayers have been answered and Trevor is on his way back safely to the United States,” Reed’s family said.
Other Americans remain jailed in Russia, including WNBA star Brittney Griner and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan.
Reed’s parents for a time expected any deal that brought Trevor home would also include Whelan and we’re saddened to see he was not in this deal, they said. According the them, Trevor had frequently said he wanted to come home at the same time as Whelan.
Griner’s case is at a much different status than Reed’s, who had been convicted in a Russian court and sentenced to prison. Griner’s case, by contrast, has yet to wind through the Russian court system, with the evidence and facts still unclear.
Reed’s family declined to comment on Griner’s situation, saying they believed that is what her camp wanted.