Brittney Griner is expected to be swapped by America for the ‘Merchant of Death’ arms dealer within weeks as Joe Biden scrambles to undo her nine-year prison sentence for smuggling cannabis into the country, DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal.
Griner was today sentenced to nine years in prison for smuggling a weed pen into Moscow in February. The 31-year-old WNBA star claimed in court it was an ‘honest mistake’ and that she didn’t mean to bring the drugs in.
For weeks, speculation has run rampant that the White House was preparing to negotiate a swap of Griner and Paul Whelan, another US citizen being held in Russian prison, in exchange for Viktor Bout, an arms dealer who was arrested in 2008 in Thailand at the request of the US authorities.
The Russians refused to agree on a deal before Griner’s sentence, citing the need for judicial process.
Now, Biden – amid a swell of public pressure from Griner’s fans in the world of sport and Hollywood – is rushing to have her released.
A source close to the ongoing negotiations told DailyMail.com that a deal to swap Griner with Bout is now more likely than ever, and could be completed within a month if there are no delays to the process.
A source close to the ongoing negotiations told DailyMail.com that a deal to swap Brittney Griner with Viktor Bout is now more likely than ever, and could be completed within a month as the White House scrambles on weakened leverage to get her out of jail
‘The US positioned has weakened now. They showed their hand and now their bargaining position has weakened,’ the source said.
Griner’s attorneys have ten days to file an appeal. After that, the matter would only take a few more weeks, they said. But the Russians may not be as quick to agree to it as Biden hopes.
‘The US positioned has weakened now. They showed their hand and now their bargaining position has weakened’
While Putin is eager for Bout to returned, he has less time on his sentence now than Griner does.
Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012.
He had already served four years and has since completed another ten.
While he technically has 11 years left on his sentence, he must serve only 85 percent of the total term under federal prison guidelines which makes him eligible for release in around five or six.
‘Are the Russians going to tip their hand? That’s really the question,’ the source added.
John Kirby, the US National Security Council Director for Strategic Communications, would only confirm that the US wants to strike a deal.
The deal has been lambasted by Republicans, including former President Donald Trump who said earlier this week that it was ‘not a good trade’.
‘She went in there loaded up with drugs, into a hostile territory and they are very vigilant with drugs. They don’t like drugs. And she got caught.
Biden’s position in the negotiations has weakened as a result of the sentence. Putin has not yet agreed to the deal – and now may not rush to it
At a press briefing on Thursday afternoon after Griner was sentenced, White House aide John Kirby refused to confirm the details of a negotiation or whether Bout was part of it
Bout was arrested in Thailand at the request of US officials in 2008. He has been incarcerated ever since, and may now be eligible for release in as little as five years
‘And now we’re supposed to get her out for an absolute killer?
‘One of the biggest arms dealers in the world. Killed many people, many Americans, and he’s going to get a free card and we’re going to get her out.
Bout’s crimes are so notorious that they inspired the Nicholas Cage movie Lord of War
‘She knew… you don’t go in there loaded up with drugs. She admitted it. It certainly doesn’t seem like a very good trade.
‘He is one of the worst in the world and he is going to be given his freedom because a potentially spoiled person goes into Russia loaded up with drugs,’ he said last week.
Bout, a former Soviet Military Officer, was arrested in Thailand in 2008 by Royal Thai Police at the request of American authorities.
Former US Attorney General Eric Holder called ‘one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers’ in history.
Bout was so notorious, that his crimes inspired the film Lord of War.
Griner was arrested at the airport in Moscow in February and has been incarcerated ever since, despite failed attempts from the White House to negotiate her release.
On Thursday, she sat in the defendant’s cage inside the courtroom throughout the proceedings, relying on an interpreter to whisper to her everything the judge said.
President Biden immediately denounced the sentence and claimed Russia had ‘wrongfully’ detained her
Before the sentence was handed down, she begged for leniency and asked the court to take into consideration her good character.
A judge accepted her plea – finding her guilty on drug possession and smuggling.
They ruled that she committed the crimes purposefully – which she has denied.
She said she did not want to be considered a political pawn, and that bringing the cannabis pen into the country was a simple, ‘honest mistake’.
‘I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws.
‘I made an honest mistake and I hope that your ruling doesn’t end my life. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics…but I hope that it’s far from this courtroom.
‘I had no intent on breaking Russian law. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime.
‘I hope you can take into account all the documents, the character lists that have been sent in on my behalf.
‘This is my second home. All I wanted to do was win championships and make them proud,’ she said.