DALLAS – Trevor Reed's nearly three-year imprisonment by Russia ended Wednesday when he walked off a Russian plane and onto an American one.
The Marine veteran's release was half of an unexpected U.S.-Russia prisoner swap that came despite high tension between the two countries. It saw the U.S. turn over a convicted Russian drug trafficker for the 30-year-old Texan who has maintained his innocence after being convicted on what a U.S. official decried as “laughable" evidence.
A look at who Reed is, why he was imprisoned and what will happen now that he's been released.
WHO IS TREVOR REED?
Reed was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in the mountains of Southern California, where he enjoyed fishing and participating in the Boy Scouts, according to his family.
After graduating high school there, he returned to Texas for college but left before finishing his degree to join the U.S. Marine Corps. He was based at Camp Pendleton in California at one point, was deployed to the Middle East and also served in the presidential guard, providing security at Camp David when Barack Obama was president.
He was photographed in uniform with Obama before being honorably discharged.
In 2017, Reed returned to college at the University of North Texas in Dallas, studying international relations and Russia — the native tongue of his girlfriend. Two years later, he traveled to Moscow for a summer of learning the language and visiting her family.
Reed wouldn't leave the country for years.
WHY WAS REED IMPRISONED?
A week before he was scheduled to return home, Reed attended a party where his family says he was encouraged to drink a large amount of vodka. He became nauseous while sharing a ride home, got out of the car and began running around a busy street, prompting a call to the police.
Reed was charged with assaulting the officers who picked him up. Russian authorities alleged he grabbed the arm of the officer driving him to a police station, causing the officer to swerve into another lane, and that he elbowed another officer who tried to intervene. The then-28-year-old was jailed in Moscow for nearly a year before going on trial in 2020.
Russian investigators didn’t give Reed's defense team video that was recorded inside the police car and his parents expressed other concerns about the case, citing what they said was missing evidence and contradictory accounts by the officers. After Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison, the U.S. ambassador visited him behind bars.
“He’s been detained and convicted on evidence that is laughable,” U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan said in 2020.
HOW REED'S FAMILY CAMPAIGNED FOR HIS RELEASE
For years before Reed was released, his situation did not look hopeful. He fell ill in prison and geopolitics loomed.
With Russia’s war against Ukraine well underway, Reed's parents told The Associated Press in March that they were worried the military conflict complicated any effort to bring their son home by potentially shutting lanes of communication.
“We’re concerned that those channels are closing, and we just want to make sure that they don’t all close and that there are hopefully multiple channels about multiple issues,” Joey Reed said.
The Reeds had pressed Biden administration officials to think creatively, for example by supporting a swap like the one that happened Wednesday, though they said the reaction had been cool.
Complicating matters was Reed’s own declining health in prison. He was coughing up blood and, at one point, went on a hunger strike.
“If this becomes long and drawn out, and they take over Ukraine, then the Western countries and the United States are going to be at odds with Russia for a long time,” Joey Reed said in the March interview. “That could lead to additional charges against our son, if he lives, and keep him there indefinitely, which is not uncommon in Russia.”
Last month, the Reeds tried to connect with President Joe Biden, standing along the motorcade route during a presidential visit to Texas. When that didn't result in a meaningful face-to-face interaction, they demonstrated outside the White House to seek a meeting with the president.
In late March, they got the meeting and less than a month later their son was headed home.
Trevor’s parents said they'd spent Tuesday cleaning his room in anticipation of his return, making sure his bed was cleared of paperwork and other clutter so he’d have a place to sleep.
His health is an immediate concern — both Reeds were troubled by his unsteady gait and how thin he looked as TV footage captured him walking, flanked by guards, from a van to the jet.
Beyond that, though, they said they anticipated him going back to school — he'd asked to be sent college books while in prison — to finish a degree and pursue a career with the federal government.
His parents expect Reed to have time for leisure, too. Assuming he reacquires a driver's license that had expired while he was away, he should be able to tool around in his Jeep Wrangler with the top down, Joey Reed said, and to do the things that locals take for granted: visit a nearby wildlife animal park and watch the Texas Rangers play baseball.
Joey said he and his son are also excited for the coming “Top Gun” sequel.
“I was still in Russia when they were supposed to come out,” he said, referring to time spent visiting his son, “and then they delayed it. And I said, ‘Trevor, they’re delaying this movie until you get out.' And that’s exactly what has happened."
Tucker reported from Washington.