A Russian court convicted an American man of sexually abusing his two sons Tuesday and sentenced him to more than two decades in prison over claims made by his Russian ex-wife. David Barnes’ lawyer told CBS News the ruling had left them shocked, given the lack of evidence and the fact that law enforcement officials in Texas, where the alleged incidents took place, had looked into the allegations and never found cause to file charges.

Barnes was sentenced to 21 years in a high security Russian penal colony by a Moscow court on Tuesday for abuses that alleged took place in Texas between 2014 and 2018. Barnes was found guilty on the charge of “violent acts of a sexual nature committed against a person under the age of fourteen,” according to pro-Kremlin Russian news outlet Pravda.

“The American’s wife said that he repeatedly raped his sons born in 2010 and 2014. He committed crimes in the United States in the cities of Houston and the Woodlands from 2014 to 2018, when the boys were visiting him,” Pravda reported.

Barnes was detained in Russia in January 2022, according to his lawyer Gleb Glinka, who told CBS News the American came to Russia the month before that to pursue visitation rights for his children after his ex-wife broke their U.S. custody agreement and fled to her native country with their sons in 2019.

“We were shocked [by the sentence],” Glinka said. “We thought that there was considerable doubt about what happened and both the verdict itself and the prison term was entirely unexpected.”

Glinka said he would be filing an appeal against the court’s ruling.

In 2014, during an acrimonious custody battle in Texas, Barnes’ ex-wife Svetlana Koptyaeva made the initial allegations that he had had sexually abused their two young sons.

“No single specialist or forum, including a jury trial in Texas, sided with her version of events or believed that what she was alleging was true,” Glinka told CBS News in a phone interview on Tuesday.

A court filing shows a temporary restraining order was issued by a Texas court against Koptyaeva in 2016, ordering that she be “forthwith restrained from making any statements that Plaintiff [Barnes] has sexually molested or behaved in an inappropriate manner with a child.”

Court filings show that judges in Texas repeatedly ruled in favor of Barnes remaining a joint custody guardian of his children between 2014 and 2018.

Glinka told CBS News that after repeatedly losing legal battles to obtain sole custody in the U.S., Koptyaeva returned to Russia in 2019 and brought the children with her.

“She tried to deny him of parental rights and when that failed, she hightailed it through Turkey back to Russia, and she did so in violation of the custody agreement,” Glinka said.

A spokesperson told CBS News on Tuesday that the U.S. State Department was aware of “reports of the sentencing of Mr. Barnes” and was in communication with him, his family and his Russian legal team, adding that U.S. embassy officials in Moscow were “closely monitoring developments in the case.”

Kelly Blackburn, the Assistant District Attorney for Montgomery County, Texas, where Koptyaeva claimed one of the abuses took place, told CBS News there was never any evidence to warrant pursuing charges against Barnes, but that an arrest warrant remained active for the Russian woman over violations of the custody agreement.

“No one from Russia has ever reached out to our office regarding David Barnes. I don’t know what, if any, evidence was presented by the Russian prosecutors, so I don’t have any comment on the verdict and sentence,” Blackburn told CBS News in a written statement. “I do know that everyone that heard and investigated the child sexual abuse allegations raised by Mrs. Barnes during the child custody proceedings here in Texas did not find them to be credible.”

The “Interference with Child Custody case is still pending, and the warrant for her is still active,” he said.

A fundraiser set up by Barnes’ sister has raised over $10,000 as of Wednesday

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