Crime

Russian court sentences US citizen to 12 1/2 years in prison on drug charges

A Russian-born U.S. citizen on Thursday was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in a maximum security prison for drug crimes. Robert Woodland faced charges of trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs as part of an organized group, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. He was arrested and has been detained since January. […]

A Russian-born U.S. citizen on Thursday was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in a maximum security prison for drug crimes.

Robert Woodland faced charges of trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs as part of an organized group, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. He was arrested and has been detained since January.

Robert Woodland, a Russian-born U.S. citizen, stands in a glass cage during a court hearing on Thursday, July 4, 2024, in Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Stanislav Kshevitsky, his lawyer, told Reuters that Woodland had partially admitted his guilt but that his team would appeal the sentence.


Video footage released by authorities showed a shaved-headed Woodland inside a glass courtroom cage. He showed little emotion when the verdict was read.

Kshevitsky said Woodland has been suffering from mental health problems but declined to provide additional details. He told Reuters the Russian court did not take his client’s mental health into consideration before sentencing him to a penal colony.

Prosecutors said Woodland was part of a large-scale criminal group and had transported 50 grams of mephedrone, a type of amphetamine, from a location outside Moscow into the city, where he packed the drugs to sell. He was arrested as he was dropping the drugs off, prosecutors claimed.

The 32-year-old is among a list of Americans who have been arrested in Russia as tensions between the two nations simmer.

Among the other Americans detained is Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was arrested in March 2023 on spying charges, which he and his employer vehemently deny. The U.S. government claims he is being used as a bargaining chip by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years for spying. He and the U.S. government have denied the charges. 

Russia claims he was a spy for military intelligence and was caught with a computer flash drive containing classified information.

Ksenia Karelina, a dual U.S.-Russian national, was arrested in February on treason charges while she was visiting her family. Karelina, who lives in Los Angeles, is accused of collecting donations for a Ukrainian organization whose beneficiary is the Ukrainian army. Her family said she donated $50 to a New York-based nonprofit organization that donates no-military aid to Ukraine. If convicted, she could spend the next 20 years behind bars.

School teacher Marc Fogel was arrested in August 2021 for trying to enter Russia with 17 grams of medical marijuana. He had been prescribed it by a doctor in the United States to treat chronic pain. He was sentenced in June 2022 to 14 years in prison. He had been working in Russia since 2012, teaching at the Anglo-American School of Moscow. In the two years since he was sentenced to a penal colony, he told Triblive.com that he was having medical troubles. 

“Spinal issues are profound injuries,” he said. “There’s nerve damage and numbness, and my balance is not as good as it should be.”

Fogel did not criticize the Russian authorities or speak poorly of the conditions of the prison, likely because his comments were being monitored.

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Eugene Spector, who was born in Russia and moved to the U.S., is serving a 3-1/2-year sentence for bribery. He had served as chairman of the board of Medpolymerprom Group, a company specializing in cancer-curing drugs.

He pleaded guilty to helping bribe an assistant to an ex-Russian deputy prime minister.

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