Criminal defense attorney Steve Zissou and his client the convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving out a 25-year sentence in federal prison, are looking forward to making big news when/if the prisoner swap takes place.
The White House and Kremlin seem to agree on handing Bout over in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner who's in her eighth month in a Russian prison for possessing less than a gram of cannabis oil in her suitcase when entering a Moscow airport to finish up her seventh season with Russia’s UMMC Yekaterinburg team.
“Look, it’s no secret, they’ve been wanting him [Bout] 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 Talks To Viktor Bout’s Lawyer
“As the WNBA entered its off-season this month, Griner’s many fans and supporters were left waiting for answers from Griner’s agent, from the league, from the White House — from anyone in a position of authority — about when she might be coming home. But if they really want to know what her future holds, they may be better off asking Zissou,” wrote Amos Barshad.
So, what gives? Zissou maintains that Bout’s arrest in 2008 and extradition in 2010 was bogus, that he was targeted specifically with a made-up crime so he could be charged in the U.S. The result has led directly to harsher treatment of Americans embroiled in legal trouble in Russia including Brittney Griner, Zissou contends.
The Queens-based lawyer noted that Bout, 55, could be out as early as 2027, which means his value in any potential swap is "rapidly dwindling," not good news for Griner.
Zissou had thought of the prisoner exchange but figured the State Dept. would never listen to him. However, they might listen to the families of former Marine Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner’s wife Cherelle whom he admitted were not keen on being involved with the likes of Bout, known as the "merchant of death” - a nickname Zissou detests.
Zissou told Barshad that the U.S. and Russia are “on the precipice of a swap. And the way you can tell that is about to happen is that everyone is radio silent.” The main factor in a possible Bout deal is the White House’s motivation to free a high-profile athlete like Griner. Zissou doesn’t believe a deal will take place until after the midterms so the White House doesn’t appear soft on Russia. And when it does, it’ll happen with no advanced fanfare.
When Bout is freed, Zissou said, “they’ll just get him up in the morning.”
What does Bout himself have to say to his lawyer?
"You gotta be patient. It’s gonna happen.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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