Family says American man denied vaccine in Russian prison has COVID

·3 min read
Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed is seen during a sentencing hearing at the Golovinsky District Court, July 30, 2020, in Moscow, Russia. / Credit: Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS/Getty
Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed is seen during a sentencing hearing at the Golovinsky District Court, July 30, 2020, in Moscow, Russia. / Credit: Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS/Getty

Moscow — A former U.S. Marine serving a nine-year sentence in a Russian prison has tested positive for COVID-19 after being refused a vaccine, his family said in a statement. Trevor Reed, a 29-year-old from Texas, had been due to appear in court on Wednesday to appeal the verdict handed to him last year for an alleged drunken assault on police officers that he says he doesn't remember.

That hearing has been postponed due to Reed's positive COVID-19 test.

"It is completely unacceptable that Trevor contracted COVID-19 in the first place. Some time ago, Embassy officials requested permission to vaccinate Trevor and Russian officials refused," his family said in a statement.

Russia's federal prison service told CBS News in a statement on Wednesday that Reed was "undergoing treatment" at a prison hospital, but insisted "his health is satisfactory, the disease is asymptomatic."

The prison authority claimed that Reed "did not apply to the administration of the pre-trial detention center with an application for vaccination against the new coronavirus infection." It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting statements from Reed's family and the Russian prison service.

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His family told CBS News in a written statement on Wednesday that Reed had lost his sense of smell and developed a cough and fever about a week ago, and that other inmates sharing his cell also had fevers.

Paula Reed, the mother of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison, speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol to call for his release, September 16, 2020. Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, right, and Mike Conaway, R-Texas, also attended. / Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc./Getty
Paula Reed, the mother of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison, speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol to call for his release, September 16, 2020. Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, right, and Mike Conaway, R-Texas, also attended. / Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc./Getty

A COVID-19 test was formally requested and administered, but before the test results came back and with Reed still suffering symptoms, the prison authorities, "wrote a note stating that he was healthy and able to attend a meeting at the courthouse with his defense team and judges" on May 24, the family said.

Finally on Tuesday, the day before the hearing was scheduled, prison officials told Reed's family and legal team that he had tested positive for the virus.

"Trevor now has COVID-19 as the result of a toxic mix of incompetence, recklessness and spitefulness on the part of Russian authorities," the family said, adding: "Needless to say, should anything happen to Trevor, we will hold the Russian Government entirely responsible."

Reed was found guilty of causing "mental and physical harm" to two police officers while drunk after a birthday party in Moscow in the summer of 2019. He pleaded not guilty and said the harsh sentence had convinced him his trial was "completely political."

The U.S. government and Reed's family have always denied the allegations and questioned the fairness of the trial. Reed's lawyers said it was the harshest sentence ever handed down for the specific crime in Russia.

Russian and U.S. authorities have reportedly discussed a potential prisoner swap involving Reed and another former U.S. Marine, Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia on espionage charges.

While Russian and U.S. officials have publicly denied any serious talk of such a prisoner exchange, Whelan's lawyer identified two people currently in U.S. custody whom he said Russia would be willing to swap for the imprisoned Americans: Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot convicted of smuggling cocaine into the U.S., and Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer nicknamed the "Merchant of Death."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on the jailing of both Reed and Whelan when they met last week during a summit in Iceland.

Whelan was vaccinated against the coronavirus at the prison labor camp in Mordovia where he's being held, his brother David told Russian news agencies on Wednesday.­

CBS News' Svetlana Berdnikova contributed to this report.

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