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Russian Court Convicts US Scholar

April 27, 2001

VORONEZH, Russia (AP) _ A Russian court sentenced American Fulbright scholar John Tobin on Friday to three years and one month in prison on charges of drug possession, purchase and distribution.

Prosecutors had previously asked for the most serious charges against the 24-year-old native of Ridgefield, Conn., to be thrown out. Those charges carried 15-year sentences.

Before the verdict was read, Tobin delivered his final statement to the court.

``Your Honor, respected participants in the trial, I consider myself not guilty. I am a student. I came here to study,″ he said in Russian.

Addressing an initial charge of organizing a drug den, which a prosecutor threw out earlier this week for lack of evidence, Tobin said that people would gather in his rented apartment ``just to socialize.″

``I don’t have anything to do with drugs,″ he said. ``I ask you to decide my case fairly. I never offered or sold anyone drugs.″

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