Marc Fogel is serving 14 years in Russia for a small quantity of pot – The Washington Publish

By | January 1, 2023

OAKMONT, Pa. — The “different American” imprisoned in Russia has a reputation, too.
He was at all times simply Mr. Fogel to the scholars he entranced with lectures in regards to the Chilly Warfare. However he’s Marc Hilliard Fogel on his well-worn passports, abundantly stamped from his a few years of educating Worldwide Baccalaureate historical past programs at faculties attended by the youngsters of U.S. diplomats and the worldwide elite in Colombia, Venezuela, Oman, Malaysia and, for the previous 10 years, in Russia.
Fogel’s charmed life has turned darkish on the age of 60. He by no means sought notoriety. However he and his household slowly have come to the conclusion that telling the world his identify might be his salvation.
For the previous 11 months, Fogel has languished in Russian detention facilities following his August 2021 arrest for attempting to enter the nation with about half an oz of medical marijuana he’d been prescribed in the US for power ache after quite a few accidents and surgical procedures. First he endlessly awaited trial, typically in crowded, smoke-choked cells. Extra not too long ago, he has been serving the primary weeks of an incomprehensible 14-year sentence handed down by a Russian decide in June.
Fogel’s plight parallels the same case that has performed large on information web sites, led cable newscasts and prompted White Home pronouncements: the trial of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner, who additionally was arrested for trying to enter Russia with a small quantity of medical marijuana. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken introduced that the US has made a “substantial proposal” to Russia to safe the discharge of Griner and one other jailed American, Paul Whelan, who’s serving a 16-year Russian sentence on spy fees he has denied. On Thursday, a Kremlin spokesman mentioned a deal has but to be finalized.
Russia: No deal but on releasing Individuals Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan
Marc Fogel’s spouse, Jane Fogel, mentioned in a Wednesday interview with The Washington Publish after Blinken’s announcement that she’s nonetheless hoping her husband might be included in a swap. However these hopes are fading, she mentioned, talking publicly for the primary time about her husband’s case.
“There’s a sinking feeling within the pit of my abdomen that Marc might be left behind,” Jane Fogel mentioned. “It’s terrifying. I might hope that President Biden and particularly first woman Jill Biden, who’s an educator, notice the significance of together with Marc along with Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.”
In suburban Pittsburgh, Jane Fogel has been watching the Griner case spool out and puzzled whether or not her husband has been forgotten. Griner’s spouse, Cherelle, obtained a name from the president. The Fogels have been stalled on the mid-functionary degree of the U.S. State Division. Hypothesis a few potential prisoner swap earlier than Blinken’s announcement on Wednesday had earlier trickled into his Russian jail cell, compounding his anxiousness.
“That harm,” Marc Fogel wrote in a letter dwelling referencing the prisoner-exchange studies. “Lecturers are at the very least as necessary as bballers.”
In an electronic mail reply to an inquiry from The Publish, a State Division official mentioned the company is conscious of Fogel’s case however didn’t present any additional data, citing privateness causes. The official didn’t reply to interview requests.
After Biden’s name with Griner’s spouse, the White Home issued a abstract of the dialog saying he advised her the U.S. authorities was working onerous to safe the discharge of Griner and one other American and Whelan. Biden added that his administration is pushing for the discharge of “different” U.S. nationals imprisoned in Russia and different international locations. Marc Fogel’s identify didn’t seem.
“It looks like the federal government is working actually onerous for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan,” Jane Fogel, 60, mentioned in an interview final week at her dwelling, surrounded by mementos of the household’s world-wandering. “We wish them to work for us, too.”
Jane Fogel was fast to level out that she’s hopeful Griner and Whelan can even be launched. Griner herself has issued a press release pleading for the discharge of different Individuals. It’s onerous to flee the dread that her husband’s case won’t ever turn into a precedence. That she could by no means see him once more. At occasions, she mentioned, tearfully, she appears like a “widow.”
Marc Fogel was at all times the fortunate one. Regardless of the tough scenario, he appeared to land on his toes, like a cat, his pals would say.
Personable, athletic, a little bit foolish typically, the Pittsburgh-area native with that large radiant smile, the sq. jaw, the thick head of wavy hair, might chat up anybody. Issues have been perpetually falling into place for him. A madcap concept to hitchhike from Prince George’s County, the place he was educating at a public center college, to see the 1994 Main League Baseball All-Star Recreation in Pittsburgh led to an opportunity encounter along with his future spouse, Jane, a highschool good friend he’d seen solely often since they graduated a decade-and-a-half earlier.
Marc Fogel had a type of wanderlust that was irresistible. Mendacity on a seashore in Thailand one New Yr’s Eve within the mid-Nineteen Nineties, he and Jane got here up with a plan — they’d get married, have youngsters and educate overseas. Jane advised her mom that she’d be again in eight months. It turned out to be 27 years.
They went to locations that evoked worry and clean stares amongst their family and friends. They usually gushed about them. The nation home surrounded by flowers the place they lived exterior Medellín, Colombia; the house on the seashore in Oman the place their eldest son discovered to snorkel. An exception was Caracas, Venezuela, the place a neighbor was murdered and a pupil’s father was critically injured in a taking pictures. Their actions turned so restricted due to security issues that their sons, Sam and Ethan, staged what they jokingly name “a coup” to get the household to maneuver.
Former college students keep in mind Marc as an upbeat presence of their lives, who was at all times saying, “‘It’s an awesome day to be alive!’ He inspired the scholars to additionally dwell life, not simply ponder it,” mentioned Jukka Haapakoski, a pupil of Marc’s in Kuala Lumpur within the Nineteen Nineties who’s now CEO of a Finnish group that advocates on behalf of unemployed folks.
In 2012, after leaving Caracas, the Fogels landed jobs on the Anglo-American Faculty in Moscow, a prestigious $34,000-a-year, pre-Ok-12 establishment that had been established by the U.S., Canadian and British embassies. Their salaries have been far past something they might make educating in the US. That they had an condo on a vibrant Moscow avenue. They cherished the place. They bopped round Europe visiting pals on college breaks.
They mingled with the embassy crowd and taught their children. Michael McFaul, a Stanford College professor who was U.S. ambassador to Russia for a part of the Fogels’ tenure in Moscow, mentioned his son was captivated by Marc’s infectious educating fashion.
“Mr. Fogel, as he known as him, made him enthusiastic about these points in a means that he’d by no means been earlier than, regardless of having met [President] Barack Obama and all types of fancy folks,” McFaul mentioned.
Prior to now few years, as tensions between the US and Russia grew, it turned more durable for the Fogels to steer household and pals that they have been in some type of schoolteacher paradise.
“I might say, ‘What are you doing there? Putin is a monster,’” Marc’s sister, Elise Hyland, mentioned. Her brother at all times responded by saying Russians are “pretty folks,” and that “it’s important to perceive their tradition to grasp what’s occurring now,” Hyland recalled.
Marc was cautious to keep away from any impression that he was taking political positions, mentioned his good friend and fellow instructor, Steve Coffey. Typically they might change lunch plans simply to keep away from neighborhoods the place demonstrations is likely to be occurring.
All of the whereas, Marc’s physique was falling aside. He’d had surgical procedures on his again and shoulder, and a knee substitute. The ache was unending. He walked with a pronounced limp. Coffey remembers his good friend’s signature farewell after an extended day: “All proper, buddy, I’m going to go hit the tub.”
Marc was adamant about not taking opioids. In 2021, a physician really useful he strive medical marijuana. It not solely helped with the ache — he appreciated it in the identical means another person may like a glass of wine or a beer.
Whereas dwelling in Pennsylvania for the summer season break in 2021, Marc and Jane needed to resolve whether or not they’d return to Russia. Jane was hesitant to return, however her husband talked her into it. Only one extra 12 months. Then he would retire, they usually might dwell of their cosy Oakmont home with the large oak tree out again and the bay window overlooking the garden. They may host barbecues. They may make new pals of their neighborhood.
After three many years overseas, a “regular” life, as she put it, sounded “unique.”
On Aug. 14, 2021, the Fogels landed at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow after the lengthy flight from New York on the Russian airline Aeroflot. Once they deplaned, Jane observed they have been in a unique terminal than traditional with extra safety, a change from the lax setting they’d encountered in earlier years. She stopped on the restroom and her husband went forward to the safety checkpoint.
When she caught up with him, she might inform one thing was unsuitable. His breath had quickened a lot that his masks was inflating and deflating like a balloon.
“Jane,” he mentioned, “I’m actually in bother.”
He’d packed 14 vape cartridges of medical marijuana into his suitcase, stuffing some in his sneakers, and positioned some hashish buds in a contact lens case, his spouse mentioned. Jane mentioned she had no concept he’d achieved it. However why take such a danger?
“It’s fairly easy,” his son Ethan mentioned of his father’s plan to deliver medical marijuana into Russia. “He thought he might get away with it.”
Nonetheless, this fortunate man, this man who at all times appeared to have issues go his means, assumed this could be a scenario that wouldn’t find yourself so badly. Possibly he’d simply get deported. Possibly he’d pay a positive or get a lightweight punishment of some kind. Possibly.
As an alternative, the Russians charged him with drug possession and intent to promote marijuana to his college students.
Whereas ready for his trial, Fogel saved a diary, pouring out his vacillating feelings, from optimism to despair and again once more. On the primary pages of a pocket book with a blue cowl, he scrawled 53 issues that gave him hope or made him comfortable or that he regarded ahead to when — if — he received his freedom.
No 1: “Jane is receiving 1,000s of supportive letters.”
Quantity 8: “One other particular person obtained out after paying a positive.”
Quantity 53: “I discovered a Frank Zappa image in a Russian journal.”
He writes in regards to the confusion and upheaval of being transferred again and again among the many community of infamous pretrial detention facilities. In a single, he encounters a “guardian angel” whose brother sends them containers of meals; he invents a cornhole-style sport utilizing “gruel bowls” and dried apricots. In one other, he has to kneel to get nasty meals handed by means of a small window in his cell, and he’s not allowed exterior for days.
At one level he refers to his pocket book as his “darkish journal.” He suspects the Russians are attempting to “break” him, using a technique of making distress, “tried & true & proper now I really feel it in my bones, my soul, it teems all through my physique.” He senses a “lack of empathy from these heartless bastards.”
He chastises himself for ruining his life and that of his household. He goals of scary bears. He wonders whether or not he’ll ever see his 93-year-old mom once more. When he seems at his face in a mirror he thinks his “crying has carved new strains.”
Marc Fogel didn’t deny attempting to deliver medical marijuana into Russia. What he requested for was leniency.
He promised the decide in his case that if he have been launched, he’d act nearly like a tourism promoter, extolling the delights of Moscow and the love he had for its residents — the identical issues he’d been telling his household and pals in the US for years, based on Irina Pigman, a Russian-born enterprise government whose husband is from the US.
Fogel thought he had an opportunity.
He most likely didn’t.
U.S.-Russia relations have been strained then, as they’re now, by U.S. assist for Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February 2022.
Russian prosecutors had painted him as a “large-scale” drug supplier intent on promoting medication to his college students and falsely labeled him an worker of the U.S. Embassy, assertions that have been repeated in some Western media accounts.
At The Publish’s request, Jane Fogel supplied documentation — payroll statements from two totally different years and an worker verification letter dated the month earlier than his arrest — that exhibits her husband was employed by the Anglo-American Faculty of Moscow. Moreover, McFaul, the previous U.S. ambassador to Russia who befriended the Fogels in Moscow, mentioned in an interview that Fogel was not an embassy worker or an American diplomat.
Jane Fogel additionally supplied The Publish with copies of her visas, which she mentioned are the identical sort as these her husband obtained. On the time of his arrest, the college the place they taught had sponsored their visa functions they usually obtained a kind of visa usually granted to professionals designated as “extremely certified specialists.”
In earlier years, they’d obtained visas sponsored by the U.S. Embassy that labeled them “technical workers,” a time period of artwork that allowed them to work in Russia on the invitation of the embassy and afforded them sure diplomatic protections, though they weren’t employed by the U.S. authorities. The embassy was concerned as a result of the college had been chartered by the American, British and Canadian embassies however overseen by a separate college board. The change within the Fogels’ visa standing befell in 2021 when the college transitioned to being a nonprofit establishment.
On the June day that Fogel was sentenced, Pigman watched the previous instructor’s face change because the Russian decide learn a prolonged assertion culminating in a 14-year sentence.
“It was like he grew outdated impulsively,” Pigman mentioned in a phone interview from her dwelling in Moscow. “He was shocked.”
Three weeks later, Griner — the WNBA star who was detained in Russia on drug fees in February — pleaded responsible. She’s awaiting sentencing. The household of Whelan, the ex-Marine serving an extended sentence on spying fees, has been vital of the eye given to Griner’s case by Biden. His sister mentioned on CNN that she wished her brother was receiving related therapy. A number of days later Biden known as her.
Jane Fogel remained quiet. She was following the steering of U.S. officers and casual advisers who mentioned public feedback might make issues worse for her husband. The tactic didn’t appear to be working, and she or he’s turn into more and more impatient.
She has grown pissed off that she has not obtained extra data from the State Division on her journeys to Washington to debate her husband’s case. The officers are well mannered and empathetic, however they inform her nearly nothing, she mentioned. One of the vital nettlesome and baffling dilemmas she’s confronted is that the State Division has not declared her husband “wrongfully detained,” a designation granted to Whelan and Griner that may shift the dealing with of his case to the Workplace of the Particular Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which negotiates releases.
Richard Burt, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany who’s now a powerhouse Washington lobbyist, is a kind of urgent for the designation. Burt has advised her that she’s solely made it to the sixth flooring on the State Division, however that they should get her to the seventh flooring the place Blinken, the secretary of state, and the opposite highest rating U.S. diplomats have places of work.
Burt and McFaul have quietly been nudging the U.S. authorities on behalf of the Fogels. McFaul says his conversations by means of non-public channels with U.S. officers have led him to consider Marc Fogel is “positively on their radar. It’s not simply the opposite two Individuals.”
Fogel is planning to enchantment his conviction, but it surely’s extremely unlikely that imprisoned Individuals can win launch by going by means of the Russian court docket system. (The Fogels draw some hope from the potential precedent of a case involving Audrey Lorber, an American teenager whose was launched from jail in 2019, one month after being caught bringing marijuana into Russia.)
McFaul has come to the conclusion that the “solely viable choice” for Griner, Whelan and Fogel is a prisoner alternate. In April, retired U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who had been sentenced to 9 years in jail, was exchanged for a Russian pilot who had been in a U.S. jail since 2010.
At dwelling, Jane Fogel listens to speak of a prisoner swap and fights the urge to get her hopes too excessive.
One current night, McFaul despatched her a clip of him discussing prisoner swaps throughout a cable information section. Fogel pulled it up on her cellphone on the dinner desk.
Unprompted, McFaul talked about his “good friend” who’d taught in Russia and was now serving 14 years in a Russian jail. There was a pause. She leaned ahead and heard the anchor say what she’d been longing to listen to.
Her mouth curled into a large smile and she or he let loose a little bit yip of enjoyment: “They mentioned his identify!”
This story has been up to date.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *