There’s finally a promising path for Brittney Griner to return to the United States.
The WNBA star could possibly be part of a prisoner exchange for Russian Viktor Bout, a convicted arms dealer and entrepreneur. He used his air transport companies to sneak weapons from Eastern Europe to Africa and the Middle East from the 1990s through the 2000s.
“Currently, talks are underway on exchanging Bout for Griner,” TASS, a Russian News Agency, reported after receiving information from “a source in the Public Monitoring Commission.”
Since February, Griner has been locked up after being detained at an airport near Moscow when Russian officials found a vape cartridge containing hashish oil in her luggage. If convicted, Griner could face up to 10 years in prison.
Bout, however, is facing much more severe charges and could see a 25-year sentence for trying to sell all the weapons he smuggled into the country for Arica and Asian militias and rebels. The DEA would eventually arrest him after a successful sting operation in 2008.
While a swap would get Griner out of harm’s way, the difference in alleged crimes committed is extremely vast.
“There’s a problem with releasing a convicted arms trafficker for Griner, whose drug possession would probably only be a fine in the U.S.,” Shira Scheindlin, a retired federal judge who conducted the Bout trial, told Forbes. “It would be better if Bout — who has already served too much time, in my opinion — was exchanged for both Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Then there would be some moral equivalency about which few could complain.”
Griner most recently appeared in court when it was announced that her prison stay would be extended another month. However, her lawyer Alexander Boykov claims this is good news because the short extension of her imprisonment signals that her trial will begin relatively soon.