Novi man Paul Whelan gets 16-year sentence from Russian court on spying charges

Paul Whelan sentencing
Posted at 4:45 AM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 14:53:05-04

(WXYZ) — Paul Whelan, the Novi man held in Russia for nearly two years, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison on spying charges in Russia.

The 50-year-old has been in Russian custody since 2018, following his arrest at a hotel there.

Whelan said he was only traveling to attend a friend's wedding.

Whelan had emergency hernia surgery in May. His twin brother, David, is now worrying about COVID-19 and his brother's health behind bars.

"The sad part of that is, that if he gets an 18-year sentence, my parents will be dead by then. Flora, the dog that he has loved, will be dead by then," he said.

David is preparing for his brother to serve some time, but has been fighting for his release and has not lost faith that Paul could still come home.

"We hope there will be some action by the U.S. government, once there’s been a conviction. Some clemency by President Putin, who sees that there’s been an injustice done here."

In a letter written Friday, David notes that Russian officials only discuss prisoner release once that person has been convicted. He hopes Monday could be an important first step in getting his brother home.

He also says that in his eyes, a conviction will only signify his brother's failure to confess, not evidence of any actual guilt.