An Alabama native held in a Russian prison for the past two years was sentenced to 21 years in a penal colony Tuesday on charges for which he had previously been exonerated in the U.S.
David Barnes, 66, was found guilty by a Russian judge of abusing his two sons in Texas, according to ABC News.
Barnes’ attorney, Gleb Glinka, plans an appeal.
“Frankly I’m horrified,” Glinka told ABC News. “There was almost no evidence that the court could base that verdict on.”
A native of Gadsden and a former Huntsville resident, Barnes was arrested in January 2022 after he traveled to Russia to meet with his two sons.
He was accused of sexually abusing his two sons several years ago in Montgomery County, Texas. The charges were brought by his ex-wife, Svetlana Koptyaeva. Because at least one of the children has Russian nationality, according to reports, Russian authorities claimed jurisdiction in the case.
The couple divorced in 2015, followed by a messy child custody case. Koptyaeva made allegations of sexual abuse against Barnes, which were investigated and found “not credible,” according to Kelly Blackburn, an assistant district attorney with the Montgomery County D.A.’s office in Texas. No charges were ever filed against him in the U.S.
After Barnes was awarded custody of the children, Koptyaeva left the country that same week with the two sons, and David Barnes eventually tracked them to Russia.
Koptyaeva was indicted in Montgomery County, Texas on Dec. 12, 2019, for felony interference with child custody. A warrant was issued for her arrest.
When Barnes entered Russia in 2022 to make contact with his sons, he was arrested by Russian police after a report by Koptyaeva.
“I didn’t steal anyone,” Koptyaeva said Tuesday. “I was just protecting my kids.”
All of Barnes’ previous court appearances were closed to the press and U.S. embassy representatives.
Barnes appeared in a cell in the courtroom, telling ABC News that he feels that justice will triumph.