TO: PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN JR.
July 4, 2023
President Joseph Biden Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden,
I am the father of an American citizen unjustly charged, tried, convicted, and imprisoned in Russia. Can you imagine what it’s like as a parent to see your son in prison? How about a Russian prison?
My son, James V. Wilgus, was tricked into signing a confession by corrupt police. He was accused of something he did not do and was tried behind closed doors. His Russian lawyer sabotaged his case. While imprisoned, he had a stroke and has been denied professional medical care. As a prisoner, he is subject to inhumane treatment, denied hygienic products as basic as toilet paper, and forced to work in a clothing factory 160 hours a month for compensation of less than $2.00/month.
He is mistreated and taken advantage of by prison officials because he is an American. They get away with this unjust behavior, unfortunately. The U.S. government should not sit idle while this happens to American citizens. My son is wrongfully detained and should be classified accordingly. After 6.5 years my son remains in a Russian prison because his government has forgotten him. I’ve observed that American prisoners are prioritized by what could be called, celebrity hostage diplomacy—a name, an audience and a constituency of a prisoner brings results. I disagree with this approach and implore action.
It is not right for the U.S. government to seemingly discriminate against some American citizens by withholding a designation thus allowing them to suffer for years, while classifying others as wrongfully detained and working for their freedom. The articles in Sec. 2 of the Levinson Act are subjective in definition but clear in intent. I assert that all Americans currently in Russian prisons meet the definition prescribed in the Levinson Act and are wrongfully detained. They qualify for negotiation status and are deserving of efforts to bring them home.
I read and heard much of the plight of Ukrainians. Indeed, Ukrainians have been wrongly attacked and suffer greatly so America and the world render aid. Your administration voices its position on this subject forcefully and repeatedly. But what of our own citizens? Do they deserve less than the same commitment to fight for justice against the same offending country and its autocratic leader?
I petition you and Secretary Blinken to designate my son Jimmy wrongfully detained so Ambassador Roger Carstens is able to negotiate on behalf of my son, James V. Wilgus. Moreover, I request that you reclassify all Americans in Russian detainment so they may be represented in negotiations by SPEHA, too.
The recent attempted overthrow of Putin demonstrates how dangerous it is for citizens at the mercy of a corrupt regime. The Russian people were frightened by the uncertainty and fragility of their government. Imagine how foreign prisoners felt. Anything can happen in such a dynamic environment, and I don’t believe the U.S. government will be able to respond quickly enough to save these detained Americans. I urge a strategy of action, not reaction.
An American held in a foreign country does not cease to be a citizen, or a constituent, while imprisoned. I urge you to become personally involved and use the power of the presidency in this urgent matter. American lives depend on your actions. I pray for your son, and plead for mine.
James L. Wilgus
JIMMY'S REQUEST TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
As aired on Newsmax's The Record with Greta Van Susteren, June 29, 2023
Americans watched the events closely in Russia this past week. Imagine what it's like on the ground. Imagine what it's like to be me, an American, and Russia tricked into signing a concession, tried behind closed doors, denied basic rights, and imprisoned with failing health, unattended. How can someone be rightfully detained when there's no justice?
Detained? yes. Rightfully? No.
I am unfairly imprisoned. I am wrongfully detained.
What Russia does to Americans should not be tolerated by my government. Unless those of us imprisoned are classified wrongfully detained, the United States government does little to nothing for us. Americans should be offended that a foreign government can imprison their fellow Americans with impunity. I call on President Biden to designate me wrongfully detained and bring me home. The President of the United States is referred to as the most powerful person on Earth. Well, prove it. Put that power to work on behalf of all Americans still detained in Russian prisons. Words are no comfort to people denied freedom. We want action.