Brittney Griner is free.
A news notification notified me on my phone. It was shocking, however liberating.
Text messages would come in from so many contacts confirming moreover sharing thoughts.
BG is coming home.
Griner returned to the U.S. early Friday after being freed in a high-profile prisoner exchange following nearly ten months in detention in Russia.
Griner was seen getting off a plane that landed Friday at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.
President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Griner, who was reunited with her wife, Cherelle. U.S. officials who met her upon arrival said she was in very good spirits and appeared in good health, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who noted that Griner would be offered specialized medical services and counseling.
Griner was exchanged for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout on Thursday.
The exchange, made at a time of heightened tensions over the invasion of Ukraine, achieved a top goal for Biden but carried a heavy price and left behind Paul Whelan, an American jailed for nearly four years in Russia.
Cherelle Griner also spoke at the White House and thanked several people who helped secure her wife’s release.
“Today, my family is whole, but as you all are aware, there are so many other families who are not whole,” Cherelle Griner said. “BG and I will remain committed to getting every American home, including Paul, whose family is in our hearts today as we celebrate BG being home.”
In February, Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport when customs officials found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage. She pleaded guilty in July but still faced a trial because admitting guilt in Russia’s judicial system does not automatically end a case. She was sentenced to nine years and was transferred to a penal colony in November.
She acknowledged in court that she possessed the canisters but said she had no criminal intent and that their presence in her luggage was due to hasty packing.
She’s on her way. pic.twitter.com/A673zRoNLL
— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) December 8, 2022
In releasing Bout, the U.S. freed a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel whom the Justice Department once described as one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers. He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the U.S. in 2010.
Bout was serving a 25-year sentence on charges that he conspired to sell tens of millions of dollars in weapons that U.S officials said were to be used against Americans.
Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive, has been imprisoned in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government have said are baseless.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver today issued the following statement regarding Brittney Griner: pic.twitter.com/BHGedou4bY
— NBA (@NBA) December 8, 2022
The process of healing begins for Griner, however, at home free.
AP Newswire contributed to this column