A Moscow District Court judge found Andrew J. Okhotin guilty of smuggling on Aug. 21, but sentenced him to only six months of conditional punishment, or “uslovno.”
The verdict means that Okhotin can return to the U.S., but on the condition that if he commits another crime in Russia within the next six months, he would have to serve the time for that crime plus six months for the smuggling conviction. The charge against Okhotin carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, but prosecutors had requested the lesser punishment.
The judge said the Russian government will keep the money—which according to Okhotin was donated by Baptists from his father’s San Diego ministry and meant for destitute Christians in Russia—because it was illegally brought across the border.
“The government has to control all the money that’s brought into the country,” Judge Igor Yakovlev said in his verdict. “Because Okhotin was trying to hide the money, his actions were against the economic interests of the Russian Federation.”
Okhotin remains in Moscow, awaiting a ruling on his appeal, which is expected in the next week. The court had warned Okhotin that the appeal might take several months to address, but a few days ago Okhotin was notified that Yakovlev had been recalled from his month-long vacation to review the appeal by Sept. 15.
Okhotin testified at his trial that he had committed an innocent mistake when, on exiting the Sheremetyevo II airport on March 29, he walked out through a green corridor for passengers