American Punk Rocker Jailed in Russia on Drug Trafficking Charges

Travis Michael Leake is accused of selling the drug mephedrone

Travis Michael Leake is detained in Russia
Travis Michael Leake is detained in Russia, photo via ABC News

    A US citizen who played in several punk rock bands while living in Russia was arrested in Moscow on suspicion of drug trafficking.

    According to NPR, the Khamovniki District Court of Moscow has accused Travis Michael Leake of selling the drug mephedrone. If found guilty, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

    A former paratrooper in the US military, Leake has lived in Moscow for nearly a decade. While residing in Russia, he played in several punk bands, including as the lead vocalist in Lovi Noch. Additionally, he served as the president of Red Decades Records, which looks to identify and cultivate “new and existing talent in the Russian marketplace for wider distribution in a world market.”

    Leake was also featured in a 2014 episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, where he voiced his frustrations with censorship in Russia. “This was a documentary series about musicians standing up and risking their lives in some cases, to stand up against government abuse of power, government corruption,” he said in the episode. “And yet, a foreign government was able to editorially control what Americans viewers see on their TV screens. That to me is a scandal of epic proportion.”

    Leake has denied the charge, telling police: “I don’t understand why I’m here. I don’t admit guilt, I don’t believe I could have done what I’m accused of because I don’t know what I’m accused of.”


    A spokesperson for the US State Department said officials were aware of Leake’s detention. “The US Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas,” the department said in a statement. “When a US citizen is detained overseas, the Department pursues consular access as soon as possible and works to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”

    Leake is the third American detained in Russia amid heightened tensions with the US. Last year, WNBA star Brittney Griner was jailed on drug charges, and was later released in a prisoner swap. In March, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges and remains in custody as of today.

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