US Soldier Sentenced to Nearly Four Years in Russian Jail for Theft and Threats

A Russian court has sentenced U.S. soldier Staff Sgt. Gordon Black to three years and nine months in prison on charges of theft and threatening to kill his girlfriend, according to state news agencies. The court in Vladivostok, located in Russia’s far east, ruled that Black will serve his sentence in a penal colony.

Arrested in May, Sgt. Black pleaded not guilty to the charges of making death threats but admitted partial guilt in stealing 10,000 roubles ($116; £89) from his girlfriend. He plans to appeal the verdict, state news sources reported.

Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of four years and eight months, while Black’s defense team sought acquittal.

U.S. officials stated that Sgt. Black, 34, met his girlfriend in South Korea. He enlisted as an infantryman in 2008 and was deployed to Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan in 2013. Most recently, he was stationed with the Eighth Army, U.S. Forces Korea, at Camp Humphreys. The U.S. Army confirmed that Black did not seek official clearance and the Defense Department did not authorize his travel to Russia or China, where he had initially traveled from South Korea. There is no evidence suggesting he intended to stay in Russia.

This case adds to the list of Americans currently detained in Russia. Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been in jail since March 2023, and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020. Additionally, Alsu Kurmasheva, a Russian-American editor for U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has been held since October and could face up to 10 years in prison on charges of spreading false information about the Russian army. A court recently denied her release before trial.

All three individuals maintain their innocence, and the U.S. government asserts that the charges against them are unfounded.

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