June 27, 2023

Reschenthaler, Colleagues Introduce the Marc Fogel Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chief Deputy Whip Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), alongside U.S. Representatives Chris Deluzio (D-PA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), and Brendan Boyle (D-PA), introduced the Marc Fogel Act. This legislation would amend the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act to require more transparency from the State Department to Congress on how wrongful detainment determinations are made.

“Marc Fogel meets six of the eleven criteria established by the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act to be designated as wrongfully detained,” said Reschenthaler. “Since last year, I have urged the State Department to classify him as wrongfully detained and prioritize securing his release. The Department has failed to do either and refused to explain its inaction – effectively stonewalling my efforts to bring him home. The Marc Fogel Act will provide transparency into the State Department’s wrongful detainment determination process and help ensure that Americans imprisoned overseas are not forgotten.”

“It is far past time for the U.S. State Department to designate Marc Fogel as wrongfully detained in Russia, and this bill will help bring daylight into the process that the Department uses for cases like his and other Americans imprisoned overseas,” said Deluzio. “Mr. Fogel and his loved ones in Pennsylvania's 17th District deserve to know that their government hears them and is using every tool available to bring him home safely. We can strengthen that trust by designating detainment status accurately and by bringing more transparency into the process."

“By introducing this legislation, we reaffirm our collective commitment to bring Marc Fogel home,” said Kelly. “For too long, we have pressed the Biden administration to declare Mr. Fogel as wrongfully detained by the Russian government. This legislation would allow Congress to receive critical information not only about Mr. Fogel and why he has not received this declaration, but also for other Americans who may be imprisoned or held hostage abroad in the future.  No American should be left behind and I pray Mr. Fogel will be reunited with his wonderful family as soon as possible.”

“This is not a time for partisanship. This is a time to come together, as Pennsylvanians and as Americans, to do everything we can to bring home Marc Fogel,” said Boyle. "I’m hopeful this legislation will lead to Marc being designated as ‘wrongfully detained’ so we can finally get Marc home. Families of detained Americans deserve to have as much information about their loved one’s case as possible. I’m proud to co-lead this bipartisan legislation with my colleagues from Pennsylvania in Marc Fogel’s name. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Marc and his suffering family.”

Specifically, the Marc Fogel Act would require the State Department to provide Congress with copies of documents and communications on why a wrongful determination has or has not been made in cases of U.S. nationals detained abroad within six months of arrest.

Background on Marc Fogel:

  • Marc Fogel, a Butler, Pennsylvania native, taught history courses at schools attended by children of U.S. diplomats in Colombia, Venezuela, Oman, Malaysia, and, for the last 10 years, in Russia.
  • Fogel was detained on August 14, 2021, and is serving a 14-year hard-labor sentence for possession of medical marijuana used to treat his severe back injury, a charge very similar to that of WNBA player Brittney Griner.
  • Under federal law, Fogel meets at least six of the eleven established criteria to be designated as wrongfully detained by the State Department. He has yet to be classified as wrongfully detained. Griner was designated in less than three months after her arrest.
  • On December 8, 2022, Griner was released from Russian prison via a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death.” Fogel remains in a Russian penal colony serving his sentence.

Reschenthaler Efforts:

  • On August 3, 2022, Reschenthaler led a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the State Department to immediately classify Marc Fogel as wrongfully detained due to the extreme similarity to Brittney Griner’s case.
  • On October 31, 2022, Reschenthaler led a bipartisan letter to Secretary Blinken demanding the State Department prioritize securing Fogel’s release.
  • On November 3, 2022, Reschenthaler introduced a resolution of inquiry directing President Biden and Secretary Blinken to provide the U.S. House of Representatives with copies of all documents relating to the State Department’s review of the statutory criteria for Fogel to be designated as wrongfully detained.
  • On February 15, 2023, Reschenthaler and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul led a letter to Secretary Blinken expressing serious concern that the State Department has failed to provide information on why Fogel has not been classified as wrongfully detained.