"An innocent man, in a living hell."
- Bob Dylan, The Hurricane
James Vincent Wilgus
One day before the US Presidential Election in November of 2016, James "Jimmy" Vincent Wilgus, a 47-year-old American Citizen from New Jersey, and renowned Musician, Composer, Singer, who performed in Eastern Europe, was forcibly detained by Russian police, falsely charged for a crime he didn't commit, unjustly tried and sentenced by a Russian judicial system to an unconscionable 12.5 years in a harsh Russian Labor Camp (the notorious Mordovia, Russia Penal Colony IK 17).
"Only I have seen the world through my eyes."
- Jimmy Wilgus, January 2023
Our Immediate Mission
For more than 2 years we have been pleading with the State Department, and various legislators for their support, to classify our son James (aka Jimmy) Vincent Wilgus as wrongfully detained.
Our request was based on Jimmy being sentenced for a crime he did not commit. This has been a long and frustrating struggle with our own government, which is unconscionable, since Jimmy, and his family, are patriotic, law-abiding American citizens, and whose father and grandfather served in the U.S. military.
After 7 years of abusive incarceration, the reason for Jimmy being detained in a Russian Labor Camp is overshadowed by the inhumane treatment he has received. The violations inflicted against Jimmy, which are described in the Levinson Act, take precedence over any accusations created by the Russian judicial system. It’s time to enforce American law.
We will now focus on the application of the Robert Levinson Hostage-Taking Accountability Act to bring Jimmy home. This is a bipartisan bill that bolsters U.S. Government resources to bring back Americans held hostage or unlawfully detained abroad. The Act focuses on Section 2 which establishes guidelines to assist the Secretary of State to determine which prisoners are being detained unlawfully or wrongfully in foreign countries. It is our belief that our son’s circumstances in a Russian Labor Camp clearly fit within several items of this legislation.
To be specific, we call your attention to Item 8, which clearly provides justification to classify an American as unlawfully detained, “The individual is detained in a country where the Department of State has determined in its annual human rights reports that the judicial system is not independent or impartial, is susceptible to corruption, or is incapable of rendering just verdicts”.
In March 2023, the State Department released its annual report on human rights violations for the year 2022. An excerpt is as follows:
“It is important to note that human rights violations are a regular feature of many of the camps in Russia, according to the U.S. State Department, human rights groups, and others who have maintained regular contact with prisoners in Russia. Physical and sexual abuse by prison guards is systemic, and torture of prisoners is pervasive, at times resulting in death or suicide”.
Further, on May 18, 2023, Former Deputy Secretary of State and U. S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2020-2022), stated the following in Senate hearings of the Foreign Relations Committee,
"...it's a Potemkin court, it is used by the Russian security services and the Kremlin to achieve their policy. There is no justice, there’s no independent judiciary.”
Based on these reports, we question why the Secretary of State is reluctant to classify all Americans in Russian prisons as unlawfully detained?
As further justification, we refer to Item 9 which states, “The individual is being detained in inhumane conditions.”, and Item 10, “Due process of law has been sufficiently impaired so as to render the detention arbitrary.”
For the reasons noted above, we ask that you focus on implementing the Levinson Act in fighting for the justifiable classification of “unlawfully detained” for Jimmy Wilgus.
Newsmax The Record with Greta Van Susteren June 29, 2023
Newsmax The Record with Greta Van Susteren August 17, 2023
Jimmy is now entering a brutal, incomprehensible 7th year of a 12.5-year sentence in a Russian prison, longer than any American released to date. He is forced to work in a factory 6 days/week unless he is sent to solitary confinement, which has been most of the past 5 years. He has maintained a positive attitude believing it’s a matter of time before his country will come to his aid.
The fight for Jimmy's freedom remains paramount and has never been more critical due to his deteriorating medical condition. After a stroke the Russian’s denied him an MRI recommended by a doctor and ordered by a Judge. It’s imperative to secure Jimmy’s freedom, or at least get him the professional diagnoses and proper medical care now, before it’s too late.
While Jimmy continues to suffer this total injustice of human rights, we ask for your prayers, support and advocacy in petitioning the U. S. Government to bring Jimmy home. He is an American citizen and should not be discriminated against using any other classification.
This is a matter of justice. It's a matter of potentially permanent medical impairment. Jimmy did not deserve this. His strength has allowed him to survive the first 6 years, but a stroke has taken away his strength. He must not be forced to serve the rest of his sentence in a Russian prison.
As a father who served in the military, I am pleading with my Government to bring Jimmy home along with every detained American. They have all suffered injustice to some degree and are therefore wrongfully detained. Is America’s motto still true, “Leave no one behind”?
Unfortunately those arrested in Russia are assumed guilty until they prove their innocence. Over 99% charged are found guilty and receive severe jail time. They have no chance. A day of imprisonment of an innocent person is one day too long. Give them back their freedom.
Russia has denied Jimmy of 3 things: His freedom, by unjustly putting him behind bars; His dignity, by publishing false accusations about his arrest; His health by refusing to provide proper medical care. We call on Pres. Biden to bring Jimmy home now to prevent further damage.