Brittney Griner's trial in Russia: Houston expert weighs in on International exchange talks

The latest moves between the Russian government and the White House could possibly set a new standard in international prisoner exchanges, according to a Houston-based expert. 

BACKGROUND: In rare contact, U.S. offers Russia deal for WNBA star Brittney Griner

Former Foreign Exchange officer, now Professor for University of St. Thomas, Dr. Richard Sindelar calls the exchange of Griner and accused spy Paul Whelan for an infamous Russian arms dealer a classic "spy for spy" exchange - except this one is very public.  

"In the old days, neither we nor the Russians would talk about it at all," says Dr. Sindelar. "Not until it was a done deal because it could become unraveled at any point." 

Dr. Sindelar also says the Russian criminal justice system is usually closed to cameras, but the press has been allowed inside Griner's trial for cannabis possession.

Griner pleaded guilty to the charges but says she did not mean to pack them in her bag before traveling to the country. 

"If they put it out there as a video, of course, all the media carry it. That builds up pressure to free Britney, which of course for the Russians builds up pressure to free Victor Bout.," says Sindelar. "That may be the Russian game."

 U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston says Griner's arrest and prosecution process has been troubling. 

"The court proceedings are really this side of ridiculous," says Lee. "Nearly 99 percent of the people that go into court in Russia are convicted or found guilty." 

Lee echoes what the All-Star athlete recently said in court, that she was spoken to in Russian during the arrest, making it hard to communicate with the officers. 

MORE: U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner testifies that poor translation led to her arrest in Russia

"There's a concern being expressed by a number of quarters in Washington," says Sindelar. "If the United States gives in, in this situation, then other countries will effectively kidnap or take hostage Americans, to be traded for somebody else. There are going to be some interesting twists and turns. 

"I think in the long run, it's advantageous to the Russians to release her, especially to get Victor Bout back," he adds.

Experts believe it will be a few more weeks until Griner will receive her final verdict in the trial.