An American college student is back in the United States after spending eight months in a Chinese prison on false charges of cannabis distribution. Matthew Fellows, 23, of Gambrills, Maryland arrived in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon before changing planes for a flight scheduled to land in Washington, D.C. Tuesday morning.
Matthew’s parents, Donna and Bill Fellows, planned to meet their son at the airport. They told the Daily Mail that they were relieved that Matthew was coming home after not being able to visit or speak with him for eight months.
“We’re absolutely thrilled, we can’t wait to get him home and smother him with love and hugs,” Donna Fellows said. “It’s been a traumatic time for the entire family, we’re just glad it’s over.”
Matthew speaks fluent Mandarin and had moved to China to teach schoolchildren to speak English. He was subsequently accepted as a student at a university in Nanjing.
But then, Matthew was arrested and held at Nanjing Detention on four charges of drug trafficking. He was detained for eight months in a cell with 15 other men, surviving on a bowl of rice and a cup of watery porridge each day.
After learning of his arrest four weeks later, Matthew’s parents sought help from experts at Conflict International, an investigative, intelligence, and security firm. Stephen Komorek, operations director of the firm’s New York branch, offered his help securing Matthew’s release pro bono.
“We immediately contacted our assets within the Chinese government and were able to quickly ascertain what had happened to Mr. Fellows,” Komorek said.
The investigators learned that Matthew had been charged with lighting a joint at a university function and passing it to friends, which constitutes a drug trafficking offense in China.
Death Penalty For Sharing A Joint?
Komorek said that Matthew’s predicament was dire.
“In some places in China you can get the death penalty for as few as two counts of drug trafficking, Mr. Fellows had four, they have a zero tolerance approach,” he said.
“We then conducted our own investigation and working with the local authorities and court system, we managed to get to the truth,” said Komorek.
Apparently, a jealous man had called police with the trumped-up allegations.
“We discovered that there was a local interest in Mr. Fellow’s Russian girlfriend Victoria,” said Komorek. “Crimes were reported to the local police because of a romantic rival he was even unaware of. We quickly came to learn that the crimes Mr. Fellows was accused of, he did not commit.”
Komorek’s team was able to convince local authorities of Matthew’s innocence and was released on Sunday.
“Luckily the judge in the case was able to see the evidence we brought forward and the charges were dropped,” he said. “We want to thank the Chinese government for taking care of our citizen and working with us to get to the truth.”
Komorek said that the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, the US Embassy in Beijing, the Chinese government, and Maryland Senator Ben Cardin’s office helped to secure Matthew’s release.
After being set free, Matthew updated his Facebook page to let friends and family know how he was doing.
“I haven’t worn shoes in 8 months let alone walking for more than three minutes,” he wrote. “My feet hurt and so do all the muscles associated foot movement in my lower legs. I’ll get the hang of strolling around on my feet after a few days.”