Wendell Brown, the Detroit native involved in a bar fight in China in 2016, was sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday morning.
Brown, a former football player, was working as a coach in Chongqing before the altercation during a night out on Sept. 24, 2016. He was with his friends and allegedly refused to party with a group of locals, who then became upset.
Brown, who has been detained for nearly two years, claimed that he fought back in self-defense when the other party started throwing bottles at him. He was the only one arrested.
“He told me everything that happened; how they were picking on him, and how they started off wanting to drink with him. When he was uninterested, they got upset, which is common,” said Alexis Andrews, a friend Brown talked to after the incident. A video reportedly supported his claim of self-defense.
Brown’s family has since hoped for his release, but a Chinese court sentenced him to four years in prison on Thursday. He plans to appeal the decision, according to Fox 2 Detroit.
It is unclear whether Brown will receive credit for the time he served to date or a full four-year term will be added.
“We are aware of reports that Mr. Brown has been sentenced to four years in prison. The Department of State takes seriously its duty to assist U.S. citizens abroad. We continue to closely follow his case,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement following the verdict.
For now, Brown’s loved ones continue to call out for help. A GoFundMe campaign started by his family in March 2017 has raised $16,773 out of a $25,000 goal.
“Wendell is well respected in his community, has been a positive role model, and inspires everyone around him. He has made us very proud of his many accomplishments and has always represented himself as a loving child of God.
“We need your help returning him home from a foreign country where he has fulfilled his mission.”
Meanwhile, netizens have been tweeting #BringWendellBrownHome to bring more attention to his situation.