Brittney Griner: Where are we with the prisoner swap? This New York lawyer has inside information
Criminal Defense Lawyer Steve Zissou and his client, convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who serving a 25-year sentence in federal prison, are eager to make big news when/if the prisoner exchange takes place.
The White House and the Kremlin seem to agree to hand over Bout in exchange for WNBA Star Brittney Griner who is in his eighth month in a Russian prison for possessing less than a gram of cannabis oil in his suitcase while entering a Moscow airport to complete his seventh season with Russian team UMMC Yekaterinburg.
Read more: Why won’t the Russian billionaires who own Brittney Griner’s basketball team help her get out of jail?
“Listen, it’s no secret, they wanted it [Bout] been back for several years now,” Zissou told CNN several days before Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony on August 4.
New York Magazine interviews Viktor Bout’s lawyer
“As the WNBA entered its offseason this month, Griner’s many fans and supporters awaited answers from Griner’s agent, the league, the White House — anyone in a position of authority — about when she could come home. But if they really want to know what his future holds, maybe they better ask Zissou,” wrote Barshad of Amos.
So what gives? Zissou argues that Bout’s 2008 arrest and 2010 extradition were bogus, that he was specifically targeted for a fabricated crime so he could be charged in the United States. The result led directly to tougher treatment of Americans involved in legal issues in Russia, including Brittney Griner, Zissou argues.
The Queens-based attorney noted that Bout55, could be out as early as 2027, meaning his value in any potential trade is “declining rapidly,” which isn’t good news for Griner.
Zissou had thought of the exchange of prisoners but I figured the State Department would never listen to him. However, they could listen to the families of former Marine Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle, who he admitted weren’t keen on getting involved with Bout. known as the “Merchant of Death” – a nickname Zissou hates.
The breakthrough took place in July when Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the United States had made a “substantial offer” to Russia for Griner and Whelan, which Moscow confirmed.
Zissou told Barshad that the United States and Russia are “on the verge of an exchange. And the way you can tell this is about to happen is everyone is quiet. The main factor in a possible fight agreement is the motivation of the White House to release a top athlete like Griner. Zissou doesn’t think a deal will happen until midterm, so the White House doesn’t seem kind to Russia. And when it does, it will happen without advanced fanfare.
When Bout is released, Zissou says, “they’ll just wake him up in the morning.”
What does Bout himself have to say to his lawyer?
“You have to be patient. It will happen.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons