The Biden administration released a Russian arms dealer in exchange for the professional women’s basketball player who carried cannabis oil that was made from marijuana at a Moscow airport.
Viktor Anatolyevich Bout was convicted by a jury in a Manhattan federal court of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles, and providing aid to a terrorist organization.
President Joe Biden announced the release of Brittney Griner on Thursday, saying the WNBA star is on her way home now after months in Russian detention.
Bout, whose exploits earned him the nickname the Merchant of Death, was sentenced to 25 years in 2011 while Griner
Bout smuggled weapons from Eastern Europe to Africa and the Middle East during the 1990s and early 2000s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Bout was a lieutenant in the Soviet Army, where he mastered multiple languages, including Esperanto, Portuguese, English, French, Arabic and Farsi (Persian).
Griner had been detained since February, when she was charged with drug smuggling at a Moscow airport.
Despite her testimony that she had accidently packed the cannabis oil that was found in her luggage, she was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August.
The prisoner swap did not free another American who the State Department claimed is wrongfully detained, Paul Whelan.
The judge who sentenced Bout, Shira Scheindlin, said that she gave him 25 years because it was the minimum allowed under federal sentencing guidelines because he was essentially entrapped.
“It is virtually undisputed that until the DEA went after Bout, he had not committed a crime chargeable in an American court in all his years as an arms dealer,” Scheindlin said at his sentencing. “But for the approach made through this determined sting operation, there is no reason to believe that Bout would ever have committed the charged crimes.”
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