(FOX 2) - A prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia means that Brittney Griner, the WNBA player who was sentenced to a labor camp after being convicted on drug charges, will be returning home.
Notably, Novi-native Paul Whelan was not part of the exchange, which included Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout who was serving a 25-year prison sentence. His brother David Whelan said the Biden Administration "made the right decision" to bring home Griner.
"There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed and for them to go home," he said in a statement. "The Biden Administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn't going to happen."
The U.S. told the Whelan family ahead of time, which allowed them to "mentally prepare for what is now a public disappointment."
"It is important to me that it is clear that we do not begrudge Ms. Griner her freedom. As I have often remarked, Brittney's and Paul's cases were never really intertwined."
During a press conference announcing Griner's release, President Joe Biden said "we've not forgotten about Paul Whelan," arguing they didn't have a "choice" in which Americans they could have released.
When Griner was sentenced, the U.S. was said to be negotiating the release of both her and Paul Whelan from Russia. It's not clear how far the deal involving the duo progressed, if at all, before the U.S. agreed to a 1-1 swap.
Even with the progress, David Whelan said the U.S. "needs to be more assertive" in its negotiating with bringing home American citizens. "If bad actors like Russia are going to grab innocent Americans, the US needs a swifter, more direct response, and to be prepared in advance."
"It will be a fourth Crhistmas Mum and Dad live through without Paul. They will be 85 and 83 on the fourth anniversary of his detention," David Whelan's statement continued. "Time is Paul's, and our, enemy. The likelihood that our parents will see their son again diminishes each day is wrongful detention continues."
"Increasingly, I worry that Paul himself won't survive 12 more years in a Russian labor colony."
One of the last updates about the status of Paul Whelan came in late November when his family learned he had been moved to a prison hospital for an unknown reason. David said he was unable to call home.
He's since returned from the hospital and continues to have phone calls with his family.