Political activist, consultant and NBA agent David Sugarman first learned of Otto Warmbier's fate on the news, recognizing it was a similar situation to that of Kenneth Bae who Sugarman helped to free from a North Korean prison in 2014.
Sugarman's social media campaign #BringBaeBack and his repeated cold calls to the North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations and subsequent meetings are credited for helping with Bae's release.
He admits his connections to NBA players get him in the door, but says, "For whatever reason God has blessed me with the ability to assist in prisoner releases with other people and I believe it's my calling and destiny to do it."
Warmbier was sentenced March 16, 2016 to 15 years of prison and hard labor for allegedly stealing a political banner while visiting North Korea.
April 22, 2016 Sugarman met with the North Korean Ambassador in New York. The Ambassador asked for basketball gear and Sugarman asked about Warmbier
Sugarman is not sure if U.S. sanctions allow him to send shoes, basketballs and shorts to North Korea. He is checking with the State Department. The Ambassador invited the NBA agent to North Korea. Sugarman is undecided.
He is sure he will continue to press the North Koreans to release Warmbier. "When he gets released, and I say when, not if, I will probably be at the airport when they bring him to an American base. This is something that I will be with until the end, the same way I was with Kenneth Bae. It's not a sprint, this is really a marathon."
Sugarman has started #WeWantWarmbier on Twitter and is working with Warmbier's friends to free the Wyoming High School Graduate.