Michigan’s Whelan won’t appeal 16-year sentence for spying in Russia

Jake Rudnitsky

Paul Whelan, a Novi man who was convicted of spying in Moscow last week in a case criticized by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, won’t appeal his 16-year sentence, the Interfax news service reported Tuesday.

Whelan declined to appeal because he has no faith in Russian courts and hopes that a deal is in the works to exchange him for Russians jailed in the U.S., according to Interfax, which cited his lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine who was arrested for alleged spying, listens to the verdict in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 15, 2020. The Moscow City Court on Monday convicted Paul Whelan on charges of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in maximum security prison colony.

Interfax previously reported that Russia and the U.S. are discussing a possible swap of Whelan for imprisoned Russians Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, citing a person it didn’t identify. Bout, an arms dealer jailed in 2012, and Yaroshenko, a pilot serving a 20-year sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine, were seized in third countries and brought to the U.S. for trial.

Zherebenkov and Whelan’s brother, David, were not immediately available for comment.

Whelan, 50, was arrested in December 2018 while attending a wedding in Moscow after receiving a flash drive with “state secrets” that he says he thought contained holiday pictures. His family has said they believe that Russia will try to use him as a bargaining chip to gain U.S. concessions.