Updates

March 22, 2021: We just received word that Jimmy has been released from solitary confinement after 106 consecutive days in solitary on charges of drug possession. It was an attempt by prison officials to keep Jimmy in prison forever by planting illegal drugs in a package mailed to him. His attorney looked into the matter and proved to the investigator this was a setup. Jimmy has been cleared of all allegations. 

Our attorney visited Jimmy on March 4, 2020. Jimmy is still in solitary confinement. He read the messages sent by you. He thanks all of you for taking the time to write and for your prayers.  The attorney will be visiting again on March 18. If you want to write to Jimmy, email your letter to jameslwilgus@gmail.com for delivery to Jimmy. In his current situation, all he has to read are his letters, which he reads over and over.

 

 

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Dear James and Bella,                                                                                                                   March 4, 2021

I just wanted to update you on our current activities on behalf of Jimmy. 

This week, we called and submitted a formal written request to the prison warden to speak on the phone with Jimmy, and to get an update on whether and why he is still in punitive isolation. 

We continue to follow-up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on our protest to his treatment, including calls and emails. They have not yet formally responded, which is the usual case here.

We also have followed-up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get an update from the Russian Ministry of Justice regarding the prisoner transfer. Again, they have no response at this time.

To end on a positive note, even if we are unable to get to talk with Jimmy by phone, we are planning a trip to see him in person in the coming weeks. We are in the early stages of planning but are aiming to see him in April.  

Sincerely,  Laura Keith- Vice Consul    Moscow ACS,  U.S. Embassy

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Jimmy’s attorney is going to write to the State Duma (A duma is a Russian assembly with advisory or legislative functions) of the Russian Federation to differentiate punishments for non-violent crimes from violent crimes against minors. At this time there is no such differentiation in Russian articles of punishment. In sentencing Jimmy, the Judge had no latitude and had to apply the law. Article 132 (b) 4 states that a charge of indecent exposure must be treated as a crime of sexual assault and rape if the victim is 14 years or younger. Her only latitude was the time of sentence which required 12 – 20 years. The Judge used her judgement and applied the lowest sentence. If this appeal is successful, the sentence could be changed to time served and Jimmy could be released and sent home.  We have authorized the attorney to proceed with this appeal and hope the Duma rules in Jimmy’s favor.

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In March 2019 the Federal Penitentiary System in Russia reported a total prisoner population of 558,778. Jimmy is in a Labor Camp in the Republic of Mordovia, about 500 miles outside of Moscow. The arrangements are like military barracks, except with a lot of barbed wire fencing. There are about 18 buildings at this Camp.  The interior is open and about 60 prisoners sleep inside. Jimmy makes friends easily and gets along with all of them, teaching English and learning a few Russian phrases. He is good friends with an American prisoner, Tom Stwalley, who is imprisoned on charges of growing marijuana in his Moscow apartment. Tom is a jazz musician/singer and they share a lot of music stories.

As of August 1, 2020,  Jimmy submitted a request for a Prisoner Transfer from Russia to the US. His request with the US Dept. of Justice has been approved and Russia has been so notified. His application with the Russian Ministry of Justice was submitted in January 2018 and we are waiting for their decision .

Sept. 5, 2020: Jimmy made a surprise phone call to his parents on Sept. 4. His cellmate Tom was physically attacked by a Russian inmate who was younger and stronger. Tom was immediately removed but not the assailant. Jimmy was at the factory at the time and received a call to report to the office. When he arrived, he and Tom were detained there for more than 7 hours, after which they were ushered to a confinement cell and remained there for 7 days.

Jimmy could not get an explanation as to why he was being held in solitary confinement when he had nothing to do with the altercation. When they were released a week later, they were asked to sign a paper confessing they were "held in confinement because they had broken prison rules". The statement was in Russian so the interpreter told them what they were signing and if they didn't sign this document they could not go back to their regular cell.

 

When they were returned to their regular cell, the Russian attacker was still there and was never punished. Jimmy was told by another prisoner that the Russian prisoners were encouraged by the Commandant to fight with the Americans, to get them in trouble. The Russians would not be punished.so long as witnesses confirmed the American started the fight. In this case, Tom was in the cell with a couple of Russian prisoners while Jimmy was working at the factory.

 

Jimmy claims he and Tom, the only Americans in building 17, get along very well with the guards. As a matter of fact, as soon as Jimmy returned to his cell, a guard called to invite him to use the office phone, which he did to call his wife and parents. The guards told Jimmy that the Commandant at this Labor Camp does not believe in pardons for Americans and, with multiple charges of violations, he can extend Jimmy's sentence beyond 12.5 years.

 

It appears that the Commandant at this Labor Camp has a vendetta against Americans and has charged Jimmy with several violations which Jimmy claims are false. Jimmy has requested that somebody do something to get him transferred to another prison near Moscow. His wife Elena has located such a prison and his parents are asking the US Department of State to insist that he be transferred to the prison closer to Moscow where he can be safer and monitored more often by the American Citizen Services, a branch of the US Embassy in Moscow.

 

Jimmy has also requested that his fellow American, Thomas Swalley, be included in a transfer. His parents are working on this option, as well as his transfer to a US Federal Penitentiary for a retrial. We’ll keep you posted.

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On December 4, 2020, coincidentally Jimmy’s birthday, he was called to the prison office to pick up packages from his wife. When he arrived there were three packages, though his wife told him she sent only two, one for his birthday and one for Christmas. All 3 were addressed to Jimmy, but one was from a different postal code, the writing was different, a policeman was present and he was opening the third package. He removed a shampoo jar, opened it and poured the contents on the table. When he emptied it illegal drugs fell out. Here are the exact words of the attorney, when he met with the investigator, in an email on January 26, 2021:

 

“hello. I was at Jimmy's today. He still has the same cough. He is still being held in the SHIZO. I barely managed to get an appointment today, so I had to call and complain. We communicated with Jimmy in writing, which is a long time, but without wiretapping. Jimmy has informed me that in fact in his name came 3 parcels. As it turned out, in the 3rd package there were crackers and shampoo with a piece of plastic inside. Who sent him the 3rd parcel is unknown. As Jimmy explains, at the time when he came for the 3rd parcel, it was already open. There was a man in civilian clothes named Igor. As I understand it, this is an FSB officer who could have planted drugs in the package.”  Note: Writing messages back and forth between Jimmy and the attorney is the only way to keep the conversation confidential. All conversations are recorded and sometimes videotaped.

To continue; the other two packages were unopened and confiscated by the police. He has still not received them, about $100.00 worth of food and hygienic items. Jimmy was accused of drug possession and placed in solitary confinement, but not charged. He has been in solitary from Dec.4, 2020 and remains there as of this writing, February 15, 2021. By law, a prisoner cannot be in solitary more than 15 days, so they take him out of the cell to see the Warden, who files a new charge against Jimmy, and puts him back in solitary.

Everyone involved knew something was wrong since no one heard from Jimmy for his birthday or Christmas. The parents asked the US Embassy to look into this and received the form reply “The offices are closed due to the Russian Holidays”. Jimmy usually calls his wife daily. With no word for more than a month, the attorney was hired to visit the prison on January 15, 2021. After the attorney notified her of his visit, Elena sent the following:

 

“Dear dad and mom, again bad news, Andrei visited the head of the colony today and said that Jimmy was not in the punishment cell, but in the cell where he was isolated from other prisoners due to the fact that he was accused of allegedly finding illegal drugs in his package  I swear to you that I did not put anything like this into the package, I am not an enemy to my husband and myself!  I swear to you by my children.  As Andrei said, he can be convicted for this and then I think of me. They are knocking out a confession statement from him. I am afraid for him and for my life. Andrei said that he could be assigned a local lawyer and provided an unqualified interpreter to defend him in the court of the first instance. It will cost 100 thousand rubles.  He said that this issue needs to be resolved urgently. Maybe today my house will be searched for prohibited items.  I have left to stay with my sister. I feel insecure in this country, danger.”

 

The parents immediately contacted the lawyer who filed an affidavit to represent Jimmy and advised he is not to be interrogated without his presence. Jimmy has no one to speak to other than the lawyer who has visited him 4 times since January 15. During these visits the lawyer has met with the Investigator to stop these ridiculous investigations and to release Jimmy from solitary. He was told that only the Warden can release Jimmy and the Warden refuses. Further, the investigation will continue to find the person who sent the drugs. It appears the Warden has a vendetta against Jimmy so he remains in solitary. The Warden has told Jimmy he will never approve parole.

 

The guards wake Jimmy at 5AM, fold his bed against the wall so he cannot rest all day, and put it down again at 9PM. He cannot rest during these hours. Jimmy has a small table and a chair for eating and writing. Once he was caught resting his head on the table and was awarded another 15 days in solitary. They photograph him blinking his eyes and accuse him of sleeping during the day, another 15 days in solitary. This goes on constantly. The lawyer was asked about such treatment, protested to the Warden and was told “We have the evidence on film.” The lawyer said he knows of a prisoner kept in solitary for 8 years. Cruel punishment but a reality. The attorney leaves Jimmy writing materials when he visits. The cell has no window, a hole in the floor as a toilet and a sink with no hot water. His human rights are being extremely violated and the US Embassy cannot visit him during a quarantine at the prison. The Embassy has written the Minister of Foreign Affairs but no response after 4 weeks. Jimmy has probably reached the low point of his incarceration and is in fear of another 20 year sentence on a bogus drug charge that will keep him in a Russian prison the rest of his life. In February 2021, the parents hired the attorney to start Cassation proceedings to review the charges and release Jimmy with time served, or at least get the original sentence of 12.5 years reduced. This case is pending and further details will be released when available.

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Today is January 11, 2021 and Jimmy is still in solitary confinement. He was placed in solitary on his birthday, December 4, 2020. That was the first time we were not able to wish him a happy birthday since he was born. Due to solitary, this was also the first time in his life we did not wish him a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year. As much as we are disappointed, we can only imagine how much Jimmy is suffering. Among other potential issues, he has now been totally isolated from any English speaking person for more than 5 weeks. We don't know why he was subjected to his longest period in solitary and, after several calls to the prison by the US Embassy, all we could  confirm is that he is in solitary. The Russian authorities would give no reason for this punishment or how long he would be confined.

It appears the Russian government is trying to break Jimmy’s spirit and we can only hope he will continue to fight through this effort. We know from phone conversations over the past 4 years of imprisonment, Jimmy always talked about getting through this crisis, remaining strong, and looking forward to getting back to rebuilding his career.

Jimmy knows he has certain rights, even in a Russian Labor Camp, as continuously reminded by the US Embassy, and has always fought for those rights. In 2018 he filed a Transfer of Prisoner application with the US Dept. of Justice and the Russian Ministry of Justice in accordance with a treaty between the two countries. The USDOJ reviewed the case and immediately approved his request. To date we have had no reply from the Russian MOJ, despite follow up letters from the USDOJ requesting a response. The Russians have no interest or incentive to entertain such a request. After all, prisoners provide free labor. Since the USDOJ cannot get a response, Jimmy decided to write letters to 10 different officials in Washington, DC as a follow up to letters written by us. After Jimmy spent limited funds buying stationary, envelopes and adding the proper postage, he gave the 10 letters to the prison administration to mail. The authorities must open them for translation to Russian so the authorities can monitor his thoughts. Jimmy inquired almost weekly as to when the letters were mailed. At the end of November he was told that all 10 letters were lost and never mailed. About a week later he was removed from the general population and placed in solitary confinement indefinitely. Just another example of the violations of Jimmy’s human rights.

We don’t know for sure why Jimmy was confined to solitary and look forward to the day he is able to call us and explain what happened. When he tells us we will post it here on TWNS. Thanks for your prayers and interest in Jimmy's welfare. Jim & Bella Wilgus

 

 

 

 

Letters

Unfortunately, the attorney we hired to visit Jimmy monthly has refused to deliver letters between us. We could not find a replacement attorney that speaks English so we are relying on biannual visits with his wife Elena and a representative from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. However, due to the Wuhan Virus, there have been no visits allowed since March, 2020. Should this procedure resume we will post letters from Jimmy when received. In the meantime, we are now past 3 1/2 years of Jimmy's incarceration. We have a Russian lawyer working on expediting Jimmy's application for a Transfer of  Prisoner to the US. We are also working with our Congressman Tom Malinowski to look into what the USDOJ and the USDOS are doing on Jimmy's behalf. We've made several; attempts to contact our Senators, Menendez and Booker. They ignore our emails, they're not available to take phone calls and won't even book an appointment to meet with them. We have never donated to either one so we assume they are not interested in helping us. Bella and I keep working on his release and will try anything that might get some results.

July, 2019

May, 2019

April, 2019

March, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 15, 2020 Prison Status in Jimmy's Words
00:00 / 07:58

Gala concert in the 13th colony.  December 24, 2018.

The announcer broadcasts that the halo concert is being performed by representatives of twelve countries of the world.

An especially talented musician was US citizen James Wilgus, who sang Katyusha Vologda

The announcer also added that the colony undergoes a careful selection of competitors to participate in the concert and only the best were able to participate in the event. 

 

Excerpt video above, courtesy of NTM 13ru.  Unabridged video can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqZBL65p1sI 

A gala concert was held at the regional UFSIN. Every year, on the eve of the New Year, talented convicts from the colonies in Mordovia prepare festive performances. This time the show was great. It was watched by Anastasia Tsiligina and Andrey Prosvirkin.

Thank you for your interest to help Jimmy.

We don’t ask for anything from Jimmy’s friends, only from our government. Our focus is to do whatever we can to help our son and to keep you and other interested parties abreast of Jimmy’s status as well as any progress we make in getting him home. That can be done by visiting this website occasionally and look at the UPDATE and PRESS tabs for the latest.
 

If you are serious about helping, the best person you can write to in Washington is the following:

Deputy Assistant Secretary Philip T. Reeker

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
2201 C Street, N.W. - Room 6226
Washington, D.C. 20520

©2021 by Jimmy Wilgus.