By Maegan Vazquez and Devan Cole, CNN
Trevor Reed, an American citizen and former Marine recently freed after two years in a Russian prison, detailed his harrowing experience surviving a psychiatric treatment facility in the country in an exclusive interview with CNN.
“The psychiatric treatment facility, I was in there with seven other prisoners in a cell. They all had severe, psychological health issues — most of ’em. So over 50% of them in that cell were in there for murder. Or, like, multiple murders, sexual assault and murder — just really disturbed individuals,” Reed told CNN’s Jake Tapper in a newly released clip from the upcoming CNN Special Report, “Finally Home: The Trevor Reed Interview,” which airs Sunday night.
“And inside of that cell, you know, that was not a good place,” he added.
“There was blood all over the walls there — where prisoners had killed themselves, or killed other prisoners, or attempted to do that,” Reed continued. “The toilet’s just a hole in the floor. And there’s, you know, crap everywhere, all over the floor, on the walls. There’s people in there also that walk around that look like zombies.”
In the clip, which aired on CNN’s “New Day” Friday morning, Reed said he did not sleep for a couple of days out of fear of what the people in his cell might do to him.
“You felt they might kill you?” Tapper asked, to which Reed replied: “Yes. I thought that was a possibility.”
Reed said he believed he was sent to the facility as a punishment for his continued push to appeal his conviction. His return to the United States late last month ended a nearly three-year ordeal.
The former US Marine was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 after being accused of endangering the “life and health” of Russian police officers in an altercation the previous year. Reed and his family have denied the charges against him.
Ultimately, Reed was returned to the US as part of a prisoner swap in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian smuggler convicted of conspiring to import cocaine. The US commuted his sentence.
Behind the scenes, officials both inside and outside the US government had for years been working to get Reed released. Last month’s swap, one administration official told CNN, was the culmination of “months and months of hard careful work across the US government” that took place against the backdrop of growing tensions between Washington and Moscow — exacerbated dramatically by Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine.
It was the combination of factors around Reed’s case — including the urgent need to address his deteriorating health in prison, his family’s consistent activism which led to a meeting with Biden, and the situation in Ukraine — that led Biden to authorize the swap for Yaroshenko, a source told CNN last month.
‘I wouldn’t let myself hope’
Reed told Tapper that he felt like he would never return to the US, saying he didn’t have confidence that he would ever get out of the Russian prison.
“And a lot of people are not going to like what I’m gonna say about this, but I kind of viewed their — having hope as being a weakness,” he said. So I did not wanna have that hope of, like, me, you know, being released somehow and then have that taken from me.”
“You denied yourself hope?” Tapper asked.
“Yeah,” Reed said. “I wouldn’t let myself hope.”
But Reed’s loved ones in the US held onto their hope throughout his imprisonment.
Reed’s family are the only relatives of a detainee held in Russia to have met with President Joe Biden to make their case. And they say that meeting was crucial to bringing Reed home.
“We believe that that meeting with the President is what made it happen,” Joey Reed, Trevor’s father, said last month. Trevor’s mother, Paula, also called the meeting “a tipping point.”
Reed and his family have vowed to continue their activism and fight for Americans unlawfully detained abroad.
A senior administration official told CNN last month that they do not necessarily see Reed’s successful repatriation as translating to momentum for Whelan’s and Griner’s cases, but said the US government will continue to press for their release, and the channel for potential swaps will remain open.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, on Saturday.
According to a senior State Department official, the top US diplomat relayed that Griner’s release is a top priority for the department and has his full attention.
Griner’s family, in a statement obtained by CNN, said they are “grateful for the time Secretary Blinken took on his recent call with Cherelle and look forward to her face-to-face meeting with the President.”
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect that Trevor Reed’s parents are the only relatives of a detainee held by Russia to have met with President Joe Biden.
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CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.