As the legal team for Brittney Griner, a star in the WNBA, seeks to appeal a drug conviction in Russia, the conversation is currently ramping up over a potential prisoner swap between both Griner and another American imprisoned by Russia for an extremely notorious Russian Terrorist.
Earlier this month, Griner was officially sentenced to a stint of almost ten years in prison for her choice to bring vape cartridges that have been infused with cannabis into Russia where it is VERY illegal. She officially admitted to committing the crime but stated that she did not knowingly or deliberately break the law, stating to the court, “I was in a rush packing and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bags.”
The legal team for the professional athlete has issued an appeal of the conviction over alleged “serious procedural violations during detention, extraction of physical evidence, arrest and investigation,” explained Griner lawyer Aleksandr Boikov, going on to state that the verdict did “not correspond to the current legal practice of Russian courts.”
This particular appeal could end up taking over three months to be adjudicated, explained the legal team to The New York Times. A bit earlier this month, the legal team for Griner stated that they would take back the appeal if it seemed like it would interfere with any potential prisoner exchanges taking place at the federal level.
As reported by the Times, discussions about exchanging Griner for a dangerous Russian terrorist are becoming far more prevalent.
Aleksandr Darchiev, a high-ranking Russian diplomat, stated over the weekend that political negotiations with the U.S. are already happening, read the report.
“The discussion of the quite sensitive topic of prisoner exchange of Russian and American citizens has been ongoing along the channels set out by the two presidents,” Darchiev explained to the Russian state media.
The diplomat officially confirmed that Viktor Bout, a Russian national that has been described by the U.S. as “one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers,” is one of the candidates for the planned prisoner transfer with Griner and Paul Whelan, who is a former U.S. Marine who had been convicted out in Moscow on charges of espionage which have been denied by Whelan.
One thing that was quite notable about the situation was that then-Attorney General Eric Holder, back in 2011, labeled Bout as “one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers” who allegedly attempted to “sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to terrorists for use in killing Americans.”
“Today, one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers is being held accountable for his sordid past,” explained Holder in the wake of Bout being convicted on charges of terrorism in New York State. “Viktor Bout’s arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts have been a source of concern around the globe for decades. Today, he faces the prospect of life in prison for his efforts to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to terrorists for use in killing Americans.”
“As the evidence at trial showed, Viktor Bout was ready to sell a weapons arsenal that would be the envy of some small countries,” stated then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.
“He aimed to sell those weapons to terrorists for the purpose of killing Americans,” stated Bharara. “With today’s swift verdict, justice has been done and a very dangerous man will be behind bars. I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents who investigated this case on three different continents and helped to bring Viktor Bout to justice.”